Xander Schauffele steadied after a late wobble to clinch gold for the United States at the Olympic golf on Sunday with a one-stroke victory as Rory Sabbatini claimed an unlikely silver for adopted nation Slovakia.
Home hero Hideki Matsuyama and Irishman Rory McIlroy were among a group of seven to play off for the bronze medal at Kasumigaseki Country Club, as well as Britain’s Paul Casey.
Schauffele finished with a final round 67 for a total of 266.
It came down to the wire after Schauffele lost control of his driver in the last holes but he birdied the 17th to break one shot clear from Sabbatini who scored an Olympic record 61 to wait nervously in the clubhouse.
The American sent another drive into the deep rough on the right on the last hole but landed his third shot to within a few feet of the cup to tap in for par and the title.
Schauffele had earlier had one hand on the gold medal as he headed into the back nine with a two-shot cushion after a flawless start.
Overnight leader by a stroke, he was suddenly under pressure as Sabbatini stormed home with birdies on 17 and 18 to cut the American’s lead to a stroke.
He held on grimly with a clutch putt for par on the 12th but the strain finally told as he sliced his tee-shot into the trees on the par-five 14th, forcing a penalty drop.
He recovered well to limit the damage to a bogey as Matsuyama pounced, reaching the green in two for a birdie to trail Sabbatini and Schauffele by a stroke.
Matsuyama stumbled with a terrible putt for par to relieve the pressure on Schauffele with a bogey on the 15th.
Schauffele’s struggles off the tee continued as he landed his drive into a greenside bunker on the 17th, soon to be joined by Matsuyama in the sand.
Both dug their shots out to about eight feet from the cup, but only Schauffele made birdie to take a gold medal-winning cushion into the 18th.
More to follow...
Subscribe to Independent Premium to bookmark this article
Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.