Golf: Xander Schauffele beats Tony Finau in play-off to win WGC-HSBC Champions

Xander Schauffele teeing off during the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai on Oct 28, 2018.
Xander Schauffele teeing off during the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai on Oct 28, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS, AFP) - Xander Schauffele, who turned 25 on the tournament's first day, birdied the first extra hole to beat fellow American Tony Finau in a play-off and win the US$10 million (S$13.8 million) WGC-HSBC Champions at the Sheshan International course on Sunday (Oct 28).

The 25-year-old, who shot a closing four-under 68 to finish on 14-under 274 for the tournament, sank a short birdie putt on his second trip to the 18th green and watched as Finau came up just short with a much longer effort.

Overnight leader Finau, 29, finished with a 71 to force the play-off, while third place for defending champion Justin Rose (72) four strokes behind the leading pair was only just insufficient for the Briton to return to world No. 1.

American Brooks Koepka shot a 69 to finish in a share of 16th on 286 and retain the top ranking he claimed for the first time after winning the CJ Cup in South Korea last weekend.

Schauffele's win comes with a US$1.8 million (S$2.5 million) victor's purse and moves him atop the standings in the young FedEx Cup 2018-2019 season.

No fluke

It also helps put to rest notions that his 2017 rookie season, in which he won twice - the Greenbrier Classic and Tour Championship - was a fluke.

"Last season, I really wanted to win to justify my rookie year and wasn't able to do that," he said. "People can say whatever they want but my team and I, we know we are doing the right things."

It was a harsh disappointment for the long-hitting, 29-year-old Finau, who was impressive all week and led after the second and third rounds.

Of Samoan and Tongan descent, he is the first player of that ancestry on the PGA Tour and the first Polynesian to play in the Ryder Cup, where he provided a rare bright spot as a US captain's pick in last month's crushing loss to Europe.

His only PGA win so far was the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. But Finau, along with Schauffele, has become a player to watch, recording 11 top-10 finishes in 2018, including at three majors, and his Ryder Cup performance.