Schauffele, Reed fall at final hurdle
January 05, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Xander Schauffele drains 21-footer for birdie at Sentry
KAPALUA, Hawaii – Unfortunately two of them had to lose.
After 72 holes at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, nothing could split Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed.
In a fitting start to a new decade, the first PGA TOUR event of 2020 came down to a playoff between three of the big stars.
The three were former winners of the event and just weeks ago teammates on the U.S. Presidents Cup team… but only one could prevail at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Thomas would ultimately be that man, making it 12 PGA TOUR wins, the most of anyone currently in their 20s. But the fight from Reed and Schauffele certainly made it all the more compelling.
Schauffele, as the defending champion, held the 54-hole lead and was trying to convert as a front runner for the first time. He remained leading until the ninth hole Sunday when Thomas took charge.
But despite falling three back with just six holes to play, the tenacious 26-year-old refused to quit and was ready to pounce as Thomas found some late struggles. In fact, he only needed to two-putt from 35-feet to win the tournament but went six-foot 11-inches past on the first attempt and failed to make the comebacker.
Then on the first sudden death hole, he faced an eagle putt from 102 feet but left it 22 feet short and once again three-putted, this time to knock himself out of contention. Afterwards, he lamented focusing on the wind too much and then being too quick and reactionary in the moments that mattered.
“I should have won the tournament. I know it. Everyone knows it,” Schauffele said.
“Under the circumstances I should have closed it off, and I didn't. I kind of did everything I was supposed to do until the last moment, which sucks. But this is another learning experience, and I guess I'll have to work on some wind putting.
“It was kind of stupid on my part. It was just childish, and you try to learn from it. It would have been nice to be a little more mature at the right time, sort of assessing the wind and the downhill speed. Just sort of a rookie move trying to close out a tournament, and I'll definitely try to draw back on this in a positive way when the time is right.”
The result meant that Schauffele has lost in a playoff in both his title defenses this season having fallen to Rory McIlroy at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions. In amidst his disappointment, he tried to find some positives.
“I can win. I think that's pretty plain and simple. I'm good enough to hang with the best, and I just need to be a little bit smarter when the time is right and able to close it out,” he said.
“I haven't really won enough. I've only won four tournaments. I think I'm plenty good. I don't see why I shouldn't keep playing great golf. This sucks. Maybe I need just a kick in the ass to sort of wake up and do the right things most of the time. Yeah, this kind of burns a little bit, but overall happy with how I handled myself.”
For Reed, his participation in the playoff was a bit of a surprise. He closed with a very impressive bogey-free 7-under 66 on Sunday, making a clutch 20-foot birdie on his final hole. It meant that when Thomas bogeyed the last and Schauffele failed in his birdie attempt, he would join them in sudden death. Being there at all after being three over through his first seven holes on Thursday was incredible.
And after Schauffele fell out of it on the first playoff hole Reed, who won at Kapalua in 2015, kept the golf moving on. He actually had an eagle putt to win on the first extra hole from 31-feet, but barely missed it. Then again, he lined up a putt to win, this time from 12-feet above the hole, on the second attempt at the 18th in the playoff. It also slid by.
When he couldn’t convert from eight feet for birdie on the third playoff attempt, the door was left open for Thomas to win, which he duly did.
“It's all about winning. At the end of the day, I knew what I had to do today. I went out and had to go shoot a low number, especially with how windy it was today, to give myself an opportunity, and I did,” Reed said.
“Unfortunately I had two putts really to close it, and one of them I got gusted on, and then this last one with the wind and the break, just got me again.
“It stings at the end whenever you don't birdie for the win. But really I gave myself an opportunity and I put myself in position to have a chance.”
Reed, who moved to 24th in the FedExCup, will have a quick opportunity to atone as part of next week’s Sony Open while Schauffele, who is now eighth in the season long points race, is expected back in competition at the Farmers Insurance Open.