Sentry Tournament of Champions

Sentry Tournament of Champions

Sentry Tournament of Champions
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
Winner: Xander Schauffele

For Xander Schauffele, golf is a one-round game — the fourth round. For the first three rounds, he’s just clearing his throat. And that was tough on the hopefuls in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, that gathering of 32 winners from 2018 at the Kapalua Plantation Course to welcome the start of the 2019 schedule. It was especially tough on Gary Woodland, who started the final round leading by three but leading Schauffele by five.

“I knew what he was doing and the competitor in me knew I needed to do one better,” said Woodland, “and unfortunately I didn’t get it done.” He was speaking of Schauffele, who trailed through the first three rounds and was five behind going into the finale, who bogeyed his first and who then fired a whopping 11-under 62, tying the course record at the par-73 Kapalua Plantation and edging Woodland by one.

Thus Schauffele, 25, came from behind in the final round for his fourth PGA Tour win, as he had for the first three. He trailed by three in the 2017 Greenbrier, trailed by two in the 2017 Tour Championship and in the 2018 WGC – HSBC by three to tie and beat Tony Finau in a playoff. Behind by five, he was braced for this one. “I didn’t do much leaderboard watching,” Schauffele said. “I knew it was going to be a birdie-fest at the end. We kept our head down and made a run for it.”

With his opening 72, Schauffele was six behind Kevin Tway’s 66. His 67-68 middle rounds kept him five behind Woodland each day, and in the fourth, the bogey at No. 1 left him six behind when he took off on his rampage. Pity Woodland. After shooting 67-67-68, he was closing with another 68, bogey-free. But when they’re dropping cross-country chip shots and fairway wedges on you for eagles, you know your time is running out. He totaled 270 — 22 under — and was second by a stroke. “This one will sting,” he said.

Schauffele, after his opening bogey, birdied four of five holes from No. 3 including a two-putt from 70 feet, and one-putts of four, 10 and 14 feet. At the par-five ninth, “I thought it would be kind of cool if I just chip in to spice things up,” he said, and he did. And then with a wedge at the par-four 12th, “we had about 102-ish … take a little off that and it happened to one-hop in there.” He took the lead on short birdie putts at 14 and 15. Woodland fought back with birdies at the 15th and 17th, but Schauffele birdied the 17th from nine feet and got the clincher at the par-five 18th with two putts from 12 feet for the 62 and his one-stroke win. Schauffele revealed where the inspiration comes from when one is six behind with 17 holes to play. “You look around,” he said, “and realize you have nothing to lose.”


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