A very happy Xander Schauffele – Photo courtesy of Stan Badz PGA Tour / IGF

Despite being, as yet, to win a major title, American Xander Schauffele has developed a reputation for performing well in the big events and today he further enhanced that reputation with victory in the men’s event at the Olympics, after edging clear of former South African, now Slovakian, Rory Sabbatini.

In 18 career majors to date, Schauffele has been inside the top ten on nine occasions against fields significantly stronger in depth and numbers than that he faced this week at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, in Saitama, north of Tokyo.

He has, admittedly, won Tour Championships and World Golf Championships but he keeps putting himself in position to win so often and today he was rewarded with a title which, likely, means a lot to him.

Schauffele raced to a four-shot lead with four birdies in his opening eight holes after beginning day four with a one-shot lead over the local favourite and his playing partner, Hideki Matsuyama, and by the turn he led the Japanese star by four.

Others, though, were staking their claim for a medal, including Sabbatini who had begun his bid nearly 90 minutes ahead of the final group. Sabbatini produced a remarkable round of 61 including an eagle, ten birdies and two bogeys to trail by just one when he finished his day’s work.

Soon after Sabbatini had finished, Schauffele was lucky to find a wayward drive at the 14th and, in the end, did well to save bogey, and the pair were tied at 17 under par.

Sabbatini waited what must have felt like an eternity to see whether the 27-year-old could better his score. A birdie at the 17th took Schauffele to the lead but he was forced to make an excellent up and down from 70 yards or so to save par at the last, after finding the rough from the tee, in order to take the gold medal.

Sabbatini took the silver after starting the day in 17th place and seven shots from the lead while a seven way playoff was required to determine the bronze medallist which would go to Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan after a four hole playoff.

Cameron Smith began the day five back off Schauffele and after making the turn in 33 he added birdies at the 10th and 11th holes and was tied in 4th place and just four from the lead. Despite a bogey at the 12th, he would birdie the 16th and 17th to get within two before finding the fairway bunker at the dangerous 18th.

Smith hit an excellent shot, but it failed to hold on the green and finished just off the back edge. He hit a very good pitch to negotiate the contours in the green but then missed a seven-foot par saving putt which, if he had made, would have given him a chance at the multiple playoff.

Still, for Smith, his 10th placing it was yet another fine showing in an event of significance.

New Zealand’s Ryan Fox produced a stunning final round of 64 including a homeward nine of 29 to finish tied for 42nd while Marc Leishman finished tied for 51st.

Scores

Cameron Smith begins his round today  – photo PGA Tour / IGF