Schauffele Reflects on Golden Past

It was a wild finish to the men’s Olympic competition in Tokyo three years ago, but in the end American Xander Schauffele captured the gold.

Despite a never-before-seen kind of Olympic games impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Schauffele – mask and all – stepped up to the podium to listen to the American national anthem, gold around his neck.

“It was an unbelievable experience, being on the podium. It hits you when you hear the national anthem standing up there,” Schauffele says. “Even thinking back to it now, even though there were no fans the moment itself […] it was really cool and really special and something I’ll never forget.”

Schauffele shot a four-round total of 18-under 266 to win gold by one shot over Rory Sabbatini, who shot a sizzling Olympics-record 61 in the final round. Schauffele rolled in a 6-foot birdie on the penultimate hole and then added an 8-foot par putt for the win on the 72nd hole of the competition.

“I was trying so hard to just stay calm. ... But man, it was stressful,” Schauffele said in 2021. “And I made that putt and it was just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and just very relieved and happy.”

Schauffele’s gold-medal triumph may have been slightly overshadowed, in the moment, by the battle for bronze. When the final group of the competition got to the 18th green, there were still nine golfers in the mix for a medal. There ended up being a seven-man playoff to determine who would win the third-place prize. C.T. Pan, after a final-round 63, won with a par on the fourth extra hole after Schauffele’s fellow American, Collin Morikawa, couldn’t convert a long par attempt after his approach plugged in the bunker.

It was always going to be a special week for Schauffele even if he didn’t leave with the biggest prize of them all. Schauffele’s mother was raised in Japan and he has grandparents in the city – so to be able to compete in their country – and win gold – was extra sweet.

“Seeing my family in Japan is always special,” Schauffele says. “Even though I grew up on the west coast, it’s still pretty far. So anytime I can see them it’s pretty cool for me.”

Schauffele would go on use the Olympic-gold win as a springboard to even more PGA TOUR success the following year. In 2022 he won three times and was part of the winning Presidents Cup team before finishing fourth in the FedExCup.

The 30-year-old, who is ranked fifth in the world, is again firmly in the mix to represent the United States at the Olympics again in Paris as he looks to become the first male golfer to win more than one medal in Olympic golf (Lydia Ko on the women’s side has both a silver and bronze).

Schauffele, who says his favorite Olympic sport other than golf is track & field (“It’s pretty ridiculous to see how fast a human can move”), had another special reason for why winning gold was so special. His father, Stefan, had dreams of being an Olympian until his car was struck by a drunk driver when he was 20 and en route to decathlon training. He lost his left eye in the accident.

Stefan Schauffele was behind the green when his son captured the gold – something he had dreamed of himself growing up.

“To have my dad here as well is really special,” Schauffele said at the time. “I gave him a hug off the back of the green there. I know this means a lot to him, so I'm just happy to sort of deliver this.”

While Paris is an immediate possibility, the next Olympic games are set to take place in Los Angeles – about three hours from where Schauffele grew up.

“I think an Olympics in Los Angeles is wild,” Schauffele says. “The support will be through the roof and it’s a big goal of mine to qualify for that one as well.”

But regardless of what the Olympic future looks like for Schauffele, he already has a golden past.