January 7, 2019 / 3:05 AM / 8 months ago

Schauffele shoots closing 62 to win Tournament of Champions

(Reuters) - Xander Schauffele equalled the course record with an 11-under-par 62 to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions by a stroke ahead of Gary Woodland in Hawaii on Sunday.

Jan 5, 2019; Maui, HI, USA; PGA golfer Xander Schauffele tees off on the first hole during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions golf tournament at Kapalua Resort - The Plantation Course. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Schauffele started the final round five strokes behind overnight leader Woodland and fell further back with a bogey at the first at the Kapalua Plantation course on Maui.

But two eagles — the second from 105 yards at the par-four 12th — and eight birdies catapulted the American to his fourth victory on the PGA Tour, his second in a couple of months after winning the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai in late October.

Schauffele finished at 23-under 269, and then watched from the scoring trailer as Woodland missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th that would have forced a playoff.

“It was a crazy day,” Schauffele told Golf Channel.

“I started off poorly, chipped in (on the par-five ninth) and then holed out shortly after that.

“I knew it was going to be a birdie-fest coming in. I got nervous coming down the stretch but I was able to pull off some shots.”

None of those shots were better than the 200-yard approach he fired into the green at the par-four 17th, the hardest hole on the course, before reading the breaking nine-foot birdie putt perfectly .

The 25-year-old hit a similarly impressive approach at the last, a fairway-metal from 270 yards that he drew into the heart of the green before two-putting from 12 feet.

All four of his victories have been achieved playing the final round from behind.

“I’m definitely freed up,” he said. “The next step is to go wire-to-wire, have a lead and maintain it.

“I have no idea what really works for me yet. This is only my third year out here. I can’t tell you what the winning formula is.”

Woodland, who started the day with a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy, shot 68 and had to settle for second on 22-under.

“I’m playing great,” he said. “Frustrated right now but Xander played great, hat’s off to him. This one will sting tonight but we’ll regroup.”

Justin Thomas (65) finished third on 18-under, while McIlroy faded with a 72 to finish eight shots back tied for fourth.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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