Thomas misses title but is a US$10m man

Justin Thomas hoisting the coveted FedExCup on the 18th green, after finishing a stroke behind fellow American Xander Schauffele in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sunday in Atlanta, Georgia.
Justin Thomas hoisting the coveted FedExCup on the 18th green, after finishing a stroke behind fellow American Xander Schauffele in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sunday in Atlanta, Georgia.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

FedExCup is icing on the cake but unheralded Schauffele caps rookie year with Tour C'ship

ATLANTA • Justin Thomas has a US$10 million (S$13.5 million) worth of consolation after losing the Tour Championship by a stroke to Xander Schauffele.

Sunday on the outskirts of Atlanta presented one of those curious golfing scenarios where even the runner-up had cause for epic celebration.

For Thomas, the FedExCup was fitting reward for a season which returned five victories - one of which was a Major championship - and, presumably, Player of the Year honours will follow.

Schauffele has cause to be equally delighted with his efforts - not only did he see off a stellar field at East Lake, his rookie year on the PGA Tour has seen two wins and a cataclysmic rise from the position of merely seeking to retain his card.

Even after a share of fifth at the US Open and victory at the Greenbrier Classic, Schauffele was 82nd in the world rankings, in what proves an indication of his earlier standing. At 23, the Californian can be classed among the rising stars of American golf.

"I actually thought I had missed a two-footer to win," said Schauffele, the first rookie to win the Tour Championship, of an agonising 72nd-hole moment. "I'm still in shock. This is just unreal."

His two-under 68 gave him a 12-under 268 total.

  • JUSTIN THOMAS' REMARKABLE SEASON BY THE NUMBERS

  • 5 TOUR VICTORIES Wins on the PGA Tour, including the PGA Championship. No player has more.

    12 TOP 10s Number of top-10 finishes. No player has more.

    1 A FEW STATS AHEAD First on the PGA Tour in total driving efficiency, birdie or better percentage and putting average.

    253 LOWEST WINNING TOTAL His 27-under score at the Sony Open in January, the lowest 72-hole score in PGA Tour history.

    59 SUB-60 Youngest PGA Tour golfer (23) to shoot a sub-60 round, when he carded an 11-under 59 in the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    63 U.S. OPEN LOW His nine-under score in the third round of the US Open - the lowest round to par in tournament history.

Thomas' 66 saw him fall just short of becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to record six victories in a season.

"It was a weird feeling," the 24-year-old said.

"As a competitor you are mad that you didn't win the tournament but then you realise what an unbelievable honour this is, the fact that you can win something over the entire course of the season.

"I played really well over the season and it is nice to finally play well in some play-off events and have it all pay off."

As Thomas and Schauffele battled it out, the sun had long since set on overnight leader Paul Casey's chances.

The Englishman reached the turn in 38 and failed to recover thereafter, his 73 meaning a fifth-place finish and an extension of the wait for a PGA Tour win which stretches back to 2009.

Americans Russell Henley (65), and Kevin Kisner (70) tied for third at 270.

Jordan Spieth made a run at the FedExCup title with a Sunday charge but his 67 was only good enough for a tie for seventh at 273.

He finished in second spot overall, 660 points behind Thomas in the standings.

"I almost cheated my way into winning the FedEx Cup when (Thomas) really deserved it," Spieth, who holed his second shot from 93 yards for an eagle on the 10th hole, said of his good friend.

"He has that belief now that he can make it happen. The progression he has made this year into becoming a phenomenal closer has been a pleasure to watch."

The Tour Championship was the last of four events in the FedExCup play-offs and the finale to the PGA Tour campaign for the 11th consecutive season.

Thomas' success brings to a close the year-long schedule that began last October in California.

"I feel like I played so well this year, I was consistent," he said.

"There have been a lot of great weeks and great memories. I've had life-changing events that just kind of ended with another kind of life changing thing for me."

For financial context, his career earnings a week ago totalled US$15,551,726. But that figure just got a whole lot bigger.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Thomas misses title but is a US$10m man'. Print Edition | Subscribe