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Xander Schauffele

The Slam: Golf’s perfect Olympic champion, and why Rory’s had a change of heart on a medal

Alex Perry wraps up the week's tour news, including an incredible finish to the men's event at the Olympic Games
 

Hello. The men’s Olympics golf tournament was good, wasn’t it? Have I changed my mind that it should be an event for amateurs? Probably. I’m easily swayed like that. Here are the big talking points from Tokyo…

X gon’ give it to ya

First up, the medals.

Xander Schauffele’s dad had once dreamed of a being an Olympian himself before a car accident ended his decathlon career.

On his mother’s side, Schauffele grandparents still live in Japan.

It all adds up to the perfect Olympic champion.

Schauffele, whose last PGA Tour win came in January 2019, tried to throw it away on 18 with a terrible drive – but an incredible up and down from the middle of the fairway secured gold at 18-under.

One back was Rory Sabbatini – the much-maligned South African who switched his nationality to Slovakian in order to compete for a medal, carded an Olympic-record 61 on Sunday to finish at 17-under and take silver.

Behind them, absolute carnage as seven players finished in a tie for third: CT Pan, Collin Morikawa, Mito Pereira, Sebastian Munoz, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Paul Casey.

Unfortunately, they didn’t send them out in a seven-ball, but Matsuyama and Casey fell at the first hurdle with bogeys at 18, while all five made pars at the 10th.

At 11, birdies for Pan and Morikawa eliminated McIlroy, Pereira and Munoz before the Open champion faced this at the 18th…

Pan made a four and it was enough for bronze.

McIlroy’s U-turn

Rory McIlroy, you might remember, did not look up for going to the Olympics following The Open. That’s all changed.

“I’ve never tried so hard to finish third before,” he said of that epic bronze medal play-off, before adding: “I made some comments before that were probably uneducated and impulsive.

“But coming here, experiencing it, seeing, feeling everything that goes on, not just Olympic golf but the Olympics in general.

“The Olympic spirit’s definitely bitten me.”

Excellent, of course. But as someone who spends a few weeks every four years blubbing at the mere sight of someone getting even close to the podium in a discipline I would never even consider watching, I have to ask: What was he expecting?

McIlroy also said winning an Olympic medal is “something that I really want to do”. See you in Paris in three years, Rory. We understand you’ve had some success there.

Anyway, next week it’s the turn of the women. Here’s where you can catch the action.

Senior GOAT

Almost exactly 15 years since her 10th and final major victory on the LPGA Tour, Annika Sorenstam has her first on the senior circuit – and how.

The GOAT, who turned 50 in October, finished with a round-of-the-day 68 for a whopping eight shot victory over compatriot Lotta Neumann.

It was also a good week for Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner, the 82-year-old who won the US Women’s Open in ’71 and ’76. Carner shot her age in the first-round before besting it by three in the second.

It means Carner, who didn’t turn professional until she was 30 before going on to win 43 LPGA titles, became just the fifth player to shoot their age in a USGA championship on one or more occasions. Carner also becomes the oldest player to ever compete in a USGA tournament, edging out Harold McSpaden, who was 81 when he teed up at the US Senior Open in 1990.

ET/LET

The cream of the European Tour, LET and LPGA were in Northern Ireland this week for the ISPS Handa World Invitational.

The women’s side of the draw was won by Pajaree Anannarukarn – and just look at what it meant to her…

On the men’s side, Daniel Gavins had zero European Tour top 10s before this week. Now he’s a champion.

Gavins was seven back at the start of the day before carding a five-under 65 that included two 50-foot putts on the back nine and more than 200 feet of putts overall.

Right, that’s enough. Enjoy your golf wherever you’re playing this week.

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Alex Perry

Alex Perry

Alex has been the editor of National Club Golfer since 2017. A Devonian who enjoys wittering on about his south west roots, Alex moved north to join NCG after more than a decade in London, the last five of which were with ESPN. Away from golf, Alex follows Torquay United and spends too much time playing his PlayStation or his guitar and not enough time practising his short game.

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