Call him “X” and in X-traordinary, or extraordinary if you want to get technical.
What transpired on a warm and largely windless Sunday afternoon on the sun-soaked island of Maui was nothing short of extraordinary.
X as in Xander — short for Alexander, as in Schauffele, the 25-year-old who showed off his game in a big way on the Plantation course as he ran down overnight leader Gary Woodland and left everyone else in his wake on his way to victory at the Tournament of Champions.
Schauffele became the champion of champions thanks to a closing 62 and that’s 11-under par on a layout that didn’t look as easy as Schauffele made it look. His 62 got him to 23-under par, a shot better than Woodland, who is now 1-for-eight in trying to close out 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour.
This loss was no fault of Woodland’s. Schauffele simply stole it out from under him to take his fourth PGA Tour win — and he’s come from behind in all of them.
“It was a crazy day,” is how Schauffele described the happenings. It got crazy on the 12th hole when Schauffle jarred his second shot from 107 yards for eagle two, his second eagle of the afternoon. That one got him to 19-under par and a shot back of Woodland. At 14 Schauffele picked up another birdie and reached 20-under. At that point it became a two-man duel, with Schauffele a hole ahead of Woodland.
“I saw him chip-in on nine and I saw him hole it out at 12,” said Woodland, who saw both eagles and knew he had a fight on his hands.
Xander birdied 15 and 17 and Woodland matched him.
At the 18th, Schauffele hit a spectacular second that left him 11 feet from eagle. He barely missed, tapped in for the 62 and retreated to the scorer’s area to watch Woodland finish on the television monitor. “I was nervous,” Schauffle admitted.
He watched as Woodland’s approach came up just short and his chip left him 11 feet from birdie. He would miss and Schauffele had his big victory.
“I’m a little speechless,” Schauffele said. “On 15 I saw I was one ahead and I watched the scoreboard from then on.”
Woodland held his head up after the loss. “I’m frustrated but hats off to Xander. He played great.”
Woodland started the day with a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy, who failed to mount any sort of move. Woodland did nothing wrong. He went bogey-free and had five birdies on his card coming to the 18th. It was that final chip that left him with a tough putt to tie.
The bad break for Woodland may have been the lack on wind for the final round. The winds blew strong the first two days and were steady but less harrowing on Saturday.
When the winds go away, there’s typically a low number to be found.
Unfortunately for Woodland, it was Schauffele who found it.
What made it even more incredible was the fact that Xander bogeyed the first hole and promptly fell six back of the lead.
Which goes to show once again that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.