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The final round of the men's golf competition at the Olympic Games has left viewers around the world in a spin after an extraordinary seven-way playoff for the bronze medal.
America's Xander Schauffele won the Olympic gold medal he so badly wanted after overcoming more pressure than he could have imagined in the final round.
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Right when Schauffele appeared to lose his firm grip on the gold, the 27-year-old American responded with two clutch putts at the end for a 4-under 67 and a one-shot victory over Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia in a wild finish to the men's competition.
One was a 6-foot birdie putt for the lead. The last one was a 4-foot par putt for the win.
“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.”
The tension made the hot air feel even thicker at Kasumigaseki Country Club. When the last group walked onto the 18th green, nine players remained in the mix for a medal.
One of them was Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who despite carrying the hopes of the host nation, left without a medal at all.
Matsuyama was part of a seven-man playoff for the bronze, which included Rory McIlroy and British Open champion Collin Morikawa.
It's not often that the battle for a minor placing in golf overshadows the battle at the very top of the leaderboard but the fight for the bronze medal was edge-of-your seat viewing.
Matsuyama made bogey on the first extra hole and was eliminated, much to the heartbreak of the host nation's fans.
No gold, silver or bronze. The 29-year-old Japanese star still has a Masters green jacket.
The drama for the bronze medal was intense as one by one, the original seven-man field was whittled down to just two: American Morikawa and Chinese Taipei's CT Pan.
I thought it was in!
It moved right at the very last second.
Ireland go out on the third hole of the playoff. Incredible stuff from @McIlroyRory though.
#TeamIreland 🇮🇪#Olympics2021 #Olympics pic.twitter.com/HMGwpbX73E
— Phil MacSheoinín (@MacSheoinin_) August 1, 2021
Others in the play-off included Mito Pereira, Sebastian Munoz and Paul Casey, with five of them parring the par-three tenth to continue on to a third play-off hole, the 461-yard par-four 11th.
All five men then parred the par-three tenth to continue on to a third play-off hole, the 461-yard par-four 11th.
Playoff drama takes the world by storm
Morikawa and CT Pan ended up making birdies, with McIlroy, Munoz and Pereira failing to match those efforts as the tumbled out of contention in heartbreak.
After what seemed like an eternity out on the golf course, a missed par putt for Morikawa proved costly as Pan rolled in to claim one of the most intensely fought bronze medals at the Games.
— 7Olympics (@7olympics) August 1, 2021
The incredible drama for the bronze medal left viewers around the world - even many that claimed not to like golf - glued to their TV screens in fascination.
Don’t watch golf, not interested in golf, don’t understand the fascination in it. I have been riveted to the tv watching the playoff for bronze medal. Brilliant skills under lots of stress.
— Judith Sturge (@judesturge) August 1, 2021
This Men's golf sudden death playoff is nuts! Went from 7 down to 5. All 5 missed birdie putts and we're onto the 3rd sudden death hole! #olympicgolf #suddendeath #TokyoOlympics2020 #TokyoOlympics @McIlroyRory
— J.T. (@DudeNotFamous) August 1, 2021
— Ayrton (@WDB_Ayrton) August 1, 2021
Right Olympic Golf. You need to think about things. The bronze medal playoff can't be more fun than the gold medal winner.
— Bastin1874 v2.0 (@DavidBastin12) August 1, 2021
— Rahul Welde (@RahulWelde) August 1, 2021
— Vivek Singh (@singhvivek83) August 1, 2021
— Michael Anand (@NUCLRGOLFWX) August 1, 2021
What a playoff and good for Pan. Not an easy feat to win a 7 player playoff. Well deserved bronze for him and his country. #Golf
— Brett (@BOltmanns5) August 1, 2021
Well done CT Pan. Bronze medal 🥉 for Chinese Taipei. First Round 74 and walks away with a medal after a riveting 7 man playoff. Whoever thinks Olympic Golf is meaningless would have done well to watch the last 2 hours of play. #olympicsgolf
— Rounds Golf (@RoundsGolfUK) August 1, 2021
Cameron Smith falls just short
Australian Cameron Smith fell agonisingly one shot shy of the bronze-medal playoff after a bogey at the last hole ended his Olympic hopes.
The miss saw Smith made a bogey finish with a second successive round of 66 to just miss out on the playoff drama.
The Australian No.1 not only rued his last-hole bogey on Sunday, when he was unable to get up and down after finding a fairway bunker off the tee and missing the green with his approach, but also some wretched luck in round two.
Smith's double bogey at the same hole on Friday, after his ball ricocheted sideways off a grandstand and into the water, ultimately cost him the bronze.
A par then and the only playoff would have been between Smith and Sabbatini to decide the silver and bronze medallists.
"I did my best but it just wasn't good enough. It wasn't to be," Smith said.
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