Schauffele, Thomas both get PGA winsThe Sports Xchange
September 24. 2017 9:49PM
Life has changed quite a bit over the last 12 months for Tour Championship winner Xander Schauffele.
A year ago, Schauffele was competing in the Web.com Tour Finals, just trying to earn his PGA Tour card. A week ago he needed to shoot a 30 on the final nine holes at the BMW Championship just to qualify for the final event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
On Sunday, Schauffele made a two-foot birdie on the last hole to shoot 68 and finish at 12-under 268, becoming the first rookie to win the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
“I thought I missed it, that’s why I couldn’t’ even react to celebrate because I thought I just missed a two-footer to win,” Schauffele said.
Schauffele, 23, earned $3.5 million with the victory and his FedEx Cup bonus. It also ensured the San Diego State alum the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award.
Justin Thomas, the PGA champion, shot a 66 and finished alone in second place at 269. The performance was good enough to earn Thomas the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus prize.
The last time different players won the tournament and the FedEx Cup was in 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the Tour Championship and Tiger Woods won the Cup.
“It was a weird feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s a great achievement, but I’m still bummed I didn’t win it. It’s been a great year, a hard-working year and to cap it off with this is icing on the cake.”
Thomas started the day tied for fourth and made a late push with birdies on the 16th and 17th holes. He was unable to drain a 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole, which would have tied him with Schauffele and put additional pressure on the rookie.
Schauffele kept his round going on the back nine when he made par putts of 8, 6 and 12 feet. He got up and down from off the green for an important par on the 17th hole and made a two-footer for birdie on the 18th.
“We kind of kept it in front of ourselves, especially on 17,” Schauffele said. “That was kind of a big up-and-down and a couple of other holes really. I made a lot of good par putts today.”
England’s Paul Casey, who began the final round with the lead, struggled from the beginning.
He had back-to-back bogeys on the front nine and wound up with a 73 and finished in fifth at 271.
Finishing in a tie for third at 270 were Russell Henley and Kevin Kisner, a pair of University of Georgia graduates. Henley made a run with a final-round 65, but Kisner was unable to gain any traction with a 70.
Henley said, “I just knew I needed to make a bunch of birdies. Happy with a 5-under 65 on a windy day, so it was a nice way to end the year.”
U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka shot 69 and was alone in sixth place at 272.
Jordan Spieth, the No. 1 seed in the FedExCup standings when the week began, shot a 67 on Sunday to finish in a tie for seventh. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson shot 72 and tied for 17th.
“It was a fight this whole week,” Spieth said. “This was the most uncomfortable I’ve been with the putter in my hands maybe in my career.”
The FedEx Cup victory no doubt clinches the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year Award for Thomas. The University of Alabama graduate won five times, including a playoff event.
“It’s awesome just because I feel like I played so well this year,” Thomas said. “I was consistent. A lot of weeks and great memories. To just have my name on that trophy with the rest of those guys is pretty awesome.”