Two Win­ners at East Lake

A mere one stroke kept Justin Thomas from hav­ing a re­ally good day. As it was, Thomas’ Sun­day in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, wasn’t too shabby.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - FEATURE - WORDS BY LAURY LIVSEY, SENIOR DI­REC­TOR COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS, PGA TOUR

t the sea­son-end­ing TOUR Cham­pi­onship at East Lake Golf Club, Thomas fin­ished sec­ond to ris­ing star Xander Schauf­fele, who won his sec­ond tour­na­ment of the sea­son in what has turned into an im­prob­a­ble late-year run. Mean­while, Thomas had plenty of rea­sons to smile. His run­ner-up per­for­mance was still enough to earn him the FedExCup and the US $10 mil­lion bonus that goes with the sil­ver cup.

As it was, Thomas al­most pulled off the daily dou­ble, com­ing oh-so close to win­ning the TOUR cham­pi­onship, too. On the par-5 18th hole at East Lake, after mak­ing birdies at Nos. 16 and 17, Thomas faced a 24 1/2-foot putt for birdie that would have bro­ken him from a tie with Schauf­fele, who was play­ing in the group be­hind. Thomas read the big-break­ing, right-to-left putt well, with the ball track­ing to­ward the hole all the way before just slid­ing un­der­neath the cup. As he putted for birdie, he al­ready had locked up the FedExCup. A birdie at 18 would have been frost­ing.

On the 18th hole, know­ing a birdie would win him the tour­na­ment, Schauf­fele hit his sec­ond shot into the par 5 to the front of the green. He chipped to 2 1/2 feet with that dis­tance left for birdie. When his putt caught the left side of the hole, cir­cled around and fi­nally dropped, he had win No. 2 of the year to go with The Green­brier Clas­sic ti­tle he won in July. Schauf­fele's strong per­for­mance in At­lanta also moved him to third in the FedExCup be­hind only Thomas and Jor­dan Spi­eth. As an ad­di­tion to his re­sume, Schauf­fele, whose mother is from Chi­nese Taipei and his fa­ther from Ger­many, can boast that he's the only rookie to ever win the Tour Cham­pi­onship, a vic­tory that will likely lead to him win­ning the Tour's Rookie of the Year Award.

He chipped to 2 1/2 feet with that dis­tance left for birdie. When his putt caught the left side of the hole, cir­cled around and fi­nally dropped, he had win No. 2 of the year to go with The Green­brier Clas­sic ti­tle he won in July.

Thomas cer­tainly couldn't walk away from East Lake de­jected. One of the fa­vorites to win the Jack Nick­laus Award pre­sented to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year, Thomas has seem­ingly done it all in 2016-17, win­ning out­side the U.S. (CIMB Clas­sic in Malaysia), tak­ing both Hawaii tour­na­ments (SBS Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons and the Sony Open in Hawaii), be­com­ing only the eighth player in PGA TOUR his­tory to shoot a sub-60 round (in the first round at the Sony Open in Hawaii), earned his first ma­jor cham­pi­onship (PGA Cham­pi­onship) and his first World Golf Cham­pi­onships ti­tle (Dell Tech­nolo­gies Cham­pi­onship). Now, he'll have the FedExCup in his tro­phy case.

It's been quite the year for the 24-year-old from Louisville, Ken­tucky, who played his col­lege golf at the Univer­sity of Alabama and noted the mag­ni­tude of win­ning the FedExCup.

“It's awe­some just be­cause I feel like I played so well this year. I was con­sis­tent—a lot of great weeks and great mem­o­ries even,” Thomas said. “To just have my name on the tro­phy with the rest of those guys is pretty awe­some.”

“The rest of those guys” in­clude Tiger Woods (twice), Rory McIl­roy, Jor­dan Spi­eth, Vi­jay Singh and Jim Furyk, among oth­ers.

Thomas' haul from the Tour Cham­pi­onship was the $945,000 sec­ond-place cheque along with the $10 mil­lion bonus, not bad for a Sun­day pay­day. All told, his 2016-17 prize-money haul on the PGA Tour was $19,921,560.

Schauf­fele en­tered the fi­nal round two shots off Paul Casey's 54-hole lead, and his 2-un­der 70 Sun­day was enough to push him ahead of ev­ery­body else, the putt at No. 18 the most pres­sure-packed putt he'd ever faced.

“I thought it missed,” ad­mit­ted Schauf­fele as he watched what turned out to be his fi­nal stroke of the sea­son roll to­ward the hole. “That's why I couldn't even re­act to cel­e­brate be­cause I thought I just missed a two-footer to win. [I'm] still kind of in shock.”

Justin Thomas cel­e­brates with the tro­phy on the 18th green after win­ning the FedExCup and sec­ond in the TOUR Cham­pi­onship as Xander Schauf­fele cel­e­brates with the Calamity Jane tro­phy for win­ning the TOUR Cham­pi­onship after the fi­nal round at East Lake Golf Club on Septem­ber 24, 2017 in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia.

Justin Thomas re­acts to his birdie on the 16th green dur­ing the fi­nal round of the TOUR Cham­pi­onship at East Lake Golf Club.

Paul Casey plays a shot from a bunker on the eighth hole dur­ing the fi­nal round of the TOUR Cham­pi­onship.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.