USA's Xander Schauffele Wins Men's Golf Gold Medal at 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 1, 2021

KAWAGOE, JAPAN - AUGUST 01: (L-R) C.T. Pan of Team Chinese Taipei celebrates with the bronze medal, Xander Schauffele of Team United States with the gold medal and Rory Sabbatini of Team Slovakia with the silver medal during the medal ceremony after the final round of the Men's Individual Stroke Play on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 01, 2021 in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The United States' Xander Schauffele held off a remarkable rally by Slovakia's Rory Sabbatini to win the gold medal in men's golf at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.

Schauffele entered the final round with a one-shot lead, which he increased to three midway through Sunday's play, but Sabbatini skyrocketed up the leaderboard with a 10-under 61 that forced the 27-year-old American to make a clutch par putt on the 18th hole to secure gold.

Chinese Taipei's CT Pan won a seven-player playoff for the bronze medal.

Here's a look at the final leaderboard:

1. Xander Schauffele (USA, -18)

2. Rory Sabbatini (SVK, -17)

3. C.T. Pan (TPE, -15*)

T-4. Paul Casey (GBR, -15)

T-4. Hideki Matsuyama (JPN, -15)

T-4. Rory McIlroy (IRE, -15)

T-4. Collin Morikawa (USA, -15)

T-4. Sebastian Munoz (COL, -15)

T-4. Mito Pereira (CHI, -15)

Golf returned to the Olympics in 2016 after a 112-year hiatus. Schauffele becomes the second American to win the men's gold medal, joining Charles Sands from the 1900 Paris Games.

The podium finishes by Sabbatini and Pan are their countries' first medals in the sport.

Schauffele took the tournament lead by one shot after the second round and was able to maintain that advantage after Round 3 on Saturday.

The San Diego native came out firing Sunday with four birdies through his first eight holes, but his round stalled just when it appeared he was about to run away from the field. He recorded no birdies and a bogey over the next eight holes, which opened the door for Sabbatini's charge.

Sabbatini, a South Africa native who became a Slovakian citizen in 2019, carded 10 birdies and an eagle as part of the best round of the event by any player. He also posted a pair of bogeys, however, which ended up being the difference in a one-stroke loss.

"The sole purpose of it was to generate future generations of Slovak golfers," Sabbatini told reporters. "It's not exactly the prime sport for kids to grow up and want to go play in Slovakia, so hopefully we can inspire future Olympians."

Schauffele rolled in a birdie on the 17th hole to restore his one-shot lead and send him to the final tee needing a par to win the tournament. He played conservatively, laying up his second shot, and his ensuing chip left a four-foot putt for the Olympic title.

"I was trying so hard to just stay calm," Schauffele said. "But man, it was stressful. And I made that putt and it was just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders."

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

The moment <a href="https://twitter.com/XSchauffele?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@XSchauffele</a> became an Olympic CHAMPION 🥇<a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/NcqOubC21d">pic.twitter.com/NcqOubC21d</a>

Meanwhile, the seven-golfer playoff for bronze lasted four holes before Pan emerged victorious.

"Very satisfying," Pan told reporters after shooting three scores of 66 or better to rebound from an opening 74. "It came as a surprise to me, too.”

Looking ahead, the women's golf tournament in Tokyo begins Wednesday. The medals will be awarded Saturday during the Summer Games' penultimate day of competition.