Xander Schauffele secured the gold medal in the men's golf event at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Sunday with a total score of 18-under par 266 after four days of thrilling action at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Schauffele, the world No 5, was in fine form across each round of the tournament, shooting rounds of 68, 63, 68, and 67 to win the title by one shot ahead of Rory Sabbatini, who shot an Olympic record round of 61 on Sunday to surge to the silver medal. South African-born Sabbatini was representing his adopted nation of Slovakia, for whom he qualified via his Slovakian wife.
“Just in shock,” Schauffele said. “I was trying so hard to just stay calm. But man, it was stressful. And I made that putt and it was just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and just very relieved and happy.”
While the top two medals were decided after 72 holes of strokeplay, the battle for the bronze had to be decided in an epic play-off with seven players involved, including Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Japan's home hope Hideki Matsuyama, and Great Britain's Paul Casey.
American Collin Morikawa, who won The Open last month, Sebastian Munoz of Colombia, Chinese Taipei's CT Pan, and Chilean Mito Pereira were also in the fight for bronze having finished on 15-under.
In the end, it was Pan who claimed the last step on the podium after four tense holes of sudden death.
After all seven players played the par-4 18th, Matsuyama and Casey were eliminated having shot bogeys while the other five golfers parred.
Pan, Morikawa, McIlroy, Munoz, and Pereira moved on to the par-3 10th hole where they all claimed pars.
McIlroy, Munoz, and Pereira were then dropped on the third play-off hole 11th as the Northern Irishman, Colombian, and Chilean were only able to make par, while Pan and Morikawa made birdies after sticking their approach shots within a few feet of the flag. Pereira was millimetres from joining the pair on the next hole, only to see his putt lip out.
The fight for bronze was now a head-to-head challenge between Morikawa and Pan which in effect had become a matchplay shootout.
Returning to the 18th, world No 3 Morikawa hit the fairway with his drive while Pan found the rough to the left of the fairway. Hitting first, Pan's second shot made its way to the left of the green, leaving him an up and down to make par. Morikawa, arguably the finest iron player in the world, undercooked his second shot as the ball plugged into the greenside bunker.
Pan proceeded to chip to within 10 feet and Morikawa did well to even get his ball on the green. The American's long par putt sailed past the hole, leaving Pan a putt for bronze, which he made confidently.