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Xander Schauffele is the new men’s Olympic golf champion. 

The 27-year-old world No.5 closed with a three-under 68 to win the gold medal by a shot from Rory Sabbatini, the South Africa-born Slovakian, who surged through the field with a stunning final round of 61.

CT Pan emerged from a seven-man sudden-death playoff to claim bronze. He secured the eighth medal of Tokyo 2021 for Chinese-Taipei, denying Open champion Collin Morikawa at the fourth extra hole after Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Sebastian Munoz, Mito Perreira and Hideki Matsuyama had been eliminated.

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But the day belonged to Schauffele.

At the start of the week, he explained why winning gold would mean so much to him. Back in the late 1980s, his father, Stefan, was an aspiring Olympic decathlete and was on his way to trials for the German team when his car was struck by a drunk driver. He suffered a number of injuries, that included the loss of sight in his left eye, stopping his Olympic dreams in their tracks.

After sealing an emotional victory, Schauffele Jnr called the win the biggest moment of his career to date.

“It’s special,” he admitted. “I mean it’s so different for us, we’re used to playing for money and we play a normal schedule and this is every four years and it’s just kind of a different feel to it.

“And you’re wearing your country’s colours and everyone’s just trying to represent to the best of their ability. So it does have that sort of special and different feel.”

For Sabbatini, meantime, a silver medal that looked unlikely at the start of the day was his reward for switching his nationality in pursuit of an Olympic dream. 

Early in 2019, the South Africa-born six-time PGA Tour changed allegiances from the country of his birth to his wife’s home nation. 

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“We started this journey, four, five years ago, getting naturalised in Slovakia and designating them as my representation,” said the 45-year-old, whose final round of 61 enters the record books as the lowest round in Olympic history. “The sole purpose of it was to generate future generations of Slovak golfers. 

“It’s not exactly the prime sport for kids to grow up want to go play in Slovakia, so hopefully we can inspire future Olympians and future professionals.”

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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