Schauffele an unlikely winner of the Tour Championship
ATLANTA — It was every bit of 360 degrees.
A full circle.
Geometry at its most fundamental.
Xander Schauffele watched as his career-changing putt traveled every inch of the 18th hole. When it finally fell — succumbing to the law of gravity — the relatively unknown golfer had a birdie and a Tour Championship victory. Schauffele finished at 12-under par at East Lake Golf Club Sunday for a one-shot win over Justin Thomas. It was the second victory for the rookie who one year ago was playing in the Web.com Tour playoffs just to earn his PGA Tour card.
“I thought it missed, that’s why I couldn’t even react to celebrate because I thought I just missed a two-footer to win,” Schauffele said. “… To watch it do a Ring around the Rosie and watch it go to the bottom of the cup, I feel very fortunate because I thought I missed it.”
His name is pronounced Zan-der Shaw-fa-lee. You’ll likely need to remember it. The 24-year old is the first rookie to win the Tour Championship and he has game.
The grandest of prizes went to Thomas. The soon-to-be-crowned Player of the Year finished second at 11-under par, with birdies on two of the final three holes, in the finale of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
He jumped the one spot over leader Jordan Spieth in the final point standings to claim the $10 million bonus.
“It’s awesome just because I feel like I played so well this year,” said Thomas, who won five times this season including his first major with the PGA Championship.
“I was consistent. I mean, a lot of great weeks and great memories even. Life-changing events that just kind of ended with another kind of life-changing thing for me.
“To just have my name on the trophy with the rest of those guys is pretty awesome.”
It is the first time since 2009 that the FedEx Cup and Tour Championship titles were won by different players when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, respectively, took home different trophies.
Schauffele, ranked 66th in the world, shot a 2-under par 68 to capture the Tour Championship title and a $1.575 million first-place check when that putt of two feet, five inches finally dropped.
Add $2 million for a third-place finish in the final FedEx Cup standings. The day’s earnings nearly matched the $4.3 million from his previous 28 tour events. Schauffele, who won the Greenbrier Classic earlier this season, has two wins, three top-10 and 10 top-25 finishes in his debut.
Just one year ago, Schauffele earned $149,292 on the Web.com Tour.
He missed his PGA Tour card by less than $100 as he finished 26th in the standings, one spot short of an automatic berth. However, he earned his card by finishing 15th in the tour playoffs.
Just look at where he is now.
Schauffele advanced through the PGA Tour playoffs in dramatic fashion.
He shot 6-under par on the final six holes of the BMW Championship to move from 32nd to 26th in the point standings, a jump of more than the two spots necessary to make the field of 30 in the season-ending event.