Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy’s strange seven-man golf playoff at the Olympics ended their medal ambitions.
P. Casey Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
During the thrilling final day of the men’s golf tournament, Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy both saw their hopes of winning an Olympic medal cruelly snatched away in a weird seven-man play-off for bronze.
After a lull of 112 years, the sport made its triumphant return in Rio, but many have criticised organisers for failing to shake things up with a new format. To be sure, the game stepped into uncharted territory after the finish, which saw the United States’ Xander Schauffele thwarting the absurd Slovakian mission of Britain’s Rory Sabbatini.
Until now, it has never seen a group of seven multimillionaires compete in sudden death for the bronze medal. Usually this group would have already boarded the private aircraft, but instead they were at the Kasumigaseki Country Club bickering over the worthless metal trophy. No exaggeration: it was in this confusing moment that golf’s true Olympic potential became apparent.
The organisers could have sent the 15-and-under crowd out in a single scrumptious seven-ball, but they opted for the more conventional four- and three-person teams instead. Hideki Matsuyama, the defending Masters champion and a fan favourite at home, was among them, as was Collin Morikawa, the winner of the Open.
The first two to go were Casey and Matsuytama, therefore the remaining fiveball consisted of McIlroy (Ireland), Morikawa (USA), CT Pan (Taiwan), Pereira (Chile), and Munoz (Columbia).
McIlroy and Morikawa were heavy favourites, with the last three announced players being outside the world’s top 80, but golf isn’t like that, especially on days like this one, and McIlroy bowed out after failing to birdie the third extra hole. Only Morikawa and Pan remained, with the 210th-ranked player taking third.
McIlroy had already returned to the clubhouse and publicly declared his Olympic conversion. The 32-year-old, who was quite sceptical of the sport’s inclusion on the schedule, has experienced the golfing equivalent of the Damascus road on his first try. McIlroy admitted that he was relieved to have been proven wrong this week. I’ve never worked so hard and come in third.
It was a sentiment shared by Casey. “The 44-year-old remarked, “I have no words for the golfers who passed on it. Simply said, in my opinion, serving as a representative of your country is the highest honour you can receive.”
The entire scoreboard was flooded with emotion. This was a great way to end Schauffele’s drought, which had lasted for over 2.5 years. The 27-year-old is now recognised for his abilities and has become a consistent major-league competitor. The International Golf Federation, the sport’s torchbearer, will be pleased to have a well-known player to replace the Englishman Justin Rose at No. 5 in the world rankings.
During his fourth shot on the par four 14th, the long-time leader appeared to have lost it and hit a tree. At that point, Sabbatini had flipped the script by shooting an Olympic record 61 (10 under par), complemented by an eagle, 10 birdies, and two bogeys, for a 17-under total. In spite of everything,
Schauffele managed to make a bogey, then birdied the 17th from six feet to regain the lead, and then finished with a spectacular up-and-down on the 18th for a score of 67 and 18 under par.
Obviously, it’s a big deal that he won golf’s Olympic gold for his country for the first time since Charles Sands in 1900, but this story is also about the joy he brought to his family. His father, Xander’s grandfather, Stefan, was a promising young decathlete who was on track to compete for West Germany at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
However, he was involved in an accident when a driver who was later found to be far over the legal limit hit head-on with his vehicle. Stefan’s Olympic dream came to an end as he had to undergo six eye surgeries over the course of two years.
In other words, until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
In his role as mental and swinging coach for his son Xander, Stefan, who moved to San Diego with his Japanese wife Ping Yi before Xander was born, no longer has to look at the Olympics through the lens of what-might-have-been.
To get this for my dad was more important to me than anything else in the world,” Xander said. I did my best to stand in for my country and my loved ones. That was an excellent time. It’s a bonus if he could make it as well. Off the back of the green, I ran up and gave my dad a big hug. This means a lot to him, I can tell.
The amazing elements of Sabbatini’s winning story would have been amplified. The 45-year-old, who has a history of controversy, shifted his citizenship to Slovakia two years ago after winning the 2003 World Cup of Golf with Trevor Immelman for South Africa.
His wife, Martini Stofanikova, is from the landlocked country in Central Europe; she caddied for him in Tokyo, and she is a cousin of the president of the Slovak Golf Association. Sabbatini was mocked for the move, with one American journalist dubbing him “the boy from Bratislava,” but he said he made the change to help expand golf in a country with only 30 facilities.
And it was Sabbatini who had the last laugh, the former world No 8 belying a results sheet showing missed cuts in his last four events and a ranking now down at 204th, to frighten the living daylights out of some of the world’s best.
According to the oldest competitor in the field of sixty, “the main aim of all this was to develop future generations of Slovak golfers.”
It’s not the most popular activity over there, but maybe we can spark some interest in the sport that could lead to some Olympians or even some careers. This could serve to stoke the flames even further. Thanks for read our Article P. Casey Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.