Our main tip for the WGC HSBC Champions tournament this week was 25 year old Xander Schauffele who after birdieing the final two holes to force a play-off, managed to birdie the play-off hole to lift his 3rd US Tour title of his career and landed our pre-tournament prediction at 55/1!
As predicted the winner of the tournament would be one with plenty of power and someone who is long off the tee. His longest drive across each of the 4 days averaged out at 335 yards ranking him 14th in the field. He made the 3rd most birdies in the field however his scrambling was the true key to success here. Xander was tied 66th for Green’s in Regulation (GIR) here after hitting just 34 of the 72 greens in regulation. His scrambling was top notch however with an 84% success rate, the best in the field.
Here’s how Xander played his way to victory:
Xander Schauffele started round one on the back 9 and he made a solid start to the tournament as he made 7 consecutive pars before opening his account on 17 with a birdie. That started a run of 5 birdies in 6 holes as the American fired his way to 5 under par. 4 par’s and a birdie on 7 meant Xander closed out with a round of 66 (-6)
Xander played solid golf in his second round with no real fireworks, he had a run of 7 consecutive par’s before a birdie after a solid approach to the par 5 8th. He then went on to bogey the 9th. 2 birdies and a bogey on 16 meant he closed with a round of 71 (-1) to take his tournament total to -7.
Schauffele had a very eventful start to round 3 as the front 9 saw just 3 par’s. A run of 3 birdies in 5 holes took him to 3 under for the day and 10 under for the tournament however he suffered a nightmare on hole 6 coming off with a double bogey 5 on the par 3. A birdie, par and a bogey closed off the front 9 to leave him 1 under for the day. The back 9 was much more solid, 7 pars and 2 birdies including a superb putt on the 16th when he was faced with a lengthy putt that broke from right to left in the middle only to see the ball drop in the centre of the cup. That put Xander 3 under for the day and 10 under for the tournament
Xander got his final round underway, and after a birdie on the par 5 2nd he followed that with a bogey on the par 3 4th. On hole 5 he rolled in a nice right to left putt for birdie after his approach was a touch short. On the 8th hole he played a delightful pitch into the green on his 3rd shot to the par 5, leaving the ball no more than a couple of feet away for an easy birdie-4. His next birdie came on the par 4 13th, when with the ball slightly below his feet Xander fired in his approach with lots of spin, seeing the ball finish up within a couple of feet for another easy birdie. A bogey on 15th dented his chances and after a par on 16 he needed 2 birdies in the final 2 holes to force a play-off, a feat the young American managed. On the par 3 17th, Xander holed out an uphill left to right putt for birdie to keep himself in with a chance, he then birdied the 18th to force a play-off with fellow American Tony Finau.
In the play-off on the 18th, Xander fired in an excellent 5-iron approach shot which found the dance floor safely giving him a chance at an eagle but with a solid chance of birdie. A superb eagle putt just ran out of speed as it approached the hole but he tapped in for birdie which was enough to lift the trophy as Finau could only manage a par.
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