Until the last hole of the last round. Golf is a cruel sport, which is sometimes measured in centimetres or in a moment of blackout within the clarity that a good player can have. That differentiated Xander Schauffele (-19), winner of the Travelers Championship, from Sahith Theegala (-17), who went to the last shot with a chance of winning on a day that also featured amateur Michael Thorbjornsen (-15).
The boy from Stanford University was battling for victory. On the PGA, an amateur has not won since 1991. A certain Phil Mickelson. Now the great outlaw of the sports world lifted the last crown without being a professional, and Thorbjornsen did not make it but raised applause from the staff. A great “rush” between holes 8 and 11 with four birdies put him in the fight. On the 12th and the 13th he was knocked out. He finished fourth, the best non-professional result in recent years. The last one was from Jon Rahm.
In the battle for victory, Schauffele over complicated himself. Partly because he played comfortably all day. His threat from Saturday, Patrick Cantlay missed fairways from the start, and soon showed that it was not his day. Not even his year, except for that Zurich Classic that he precisely won with Xander. As it was, Schauffeke was leaving although Theegala asked to pass.
The Californian player completed a tremendous nine seconds. In the 9th he putted a distant putt, in the 13th from the “antegreen” in a spectacular way and in the 16th he tied the contest. Schauffele did not get the birdie with two good putts and from the distance Theegala was placed first with -19. Schauffele was not working from the green and it seemed that he would continue with his curse of being the leader of Saturday.
But the 18 changed the game. Theegala was awful and sent the ball to the bunker. Difficult position and two paths: either the simple to the fairway, or play the green. He opted for the complicated one, hit clean but the ball did not leave the sand when it bounced. He had to get the bogey out and he did not even do that. A pit tie sent him double-bogeying. Schaufeele could sentence and he did it. Exit as the canons command, perfect second shot and the short game carburized. Champion in a deadly, defining and precious 18th.