Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rookie Xander Schauffele wins Tour Championship, Justin Thomas takes FedEx Cup

ATLANTA — Justin Thomas is the FedEx Cup champion, a surprise to no one who saw him power his way to scoring records, his first major at the PGA Championship and more PGA Tour victories than anyone this season.

Standing next to him at the trophy ceremony was Xander Schauffele, who never imagined being at the Tour Championship, much less winning it.

Both put on quite a show Sunday at East Lake.

Schauffele, 23, a rookie from San Diego who was worried about keeping his card three months ago, capped an amazing summer with four par saves on the back nine when he couldn't afford to drop a shot. He closed out his 2-under 68 by swirling in a 3-foot birdie putt for a one-shot victory over Thomas.

"My hands were shaking so much," said Schauffele, who finished at 12-under 268. "I'm still kind of in shock."

Thomas did his part.

Five shots behind to start the round and needing to play well to have a shot at the FedEx Cup, he nearly won the Tour Championship with two late birdies only for his 25-foot birdie on the 18th snap hard to the left in front of the cup. He shot 66.

No matter.

His repeat victory in Malaysia, his sweep of Hawaii — including a 59 and the lowest 72-hole score in PGA Tour history at the Sony Open — his first major and a bold finish at East Lake carried him to a FedEx Cup title and little doubt who was the best in golf this year.

Thomas won the $10 million bonus plus second-place prize money of $945,000 that pushed him over $10 million for the year to win the money title.

"It's huge," he said. "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 — life-changing events that just ended with another life-changing thing for me. To just have my name on the trophy with the rest of those guys is pretty awesome."

The surprise guest to the party was Schauffele, the first rookie to win the Tour Championship since it began in 1987.

"It's been a wild ride," he said.

A year ago, he missed his PGA Tour card by $975 on the Web.com Tour then earned it in a four-tournament playoff. After the first week in June, he was No. 134 in the FedEx Cup and trying to keep his card when he qualified for the U.S. Open in a five-man playoff for two spots.

He tied for fifth at Erin Hills, won the Greenbrier Classic a month later. A week ago at Conway Farms, his season was about to end until he played the final six at 6-under to squeak into the Tour Championship.

Third-round leader Paul Casey closed with 73 and finished fifth at 9-under 271.

CHAMPIONS: Bernhard Langer pulled away with three straight birdies on the back nine and cruised to a three-shot victory at the Pure Insurance Championship in Pebble Beach, Calif., his fifth victory of the year. Langer, who went in with a one-stroke lead, closed with 67 for 17-under 198 total. Jerry Kelly shot 67 to finish second.

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Published: 09/04/18