Playoff heartbreak for McIlroy as Schauffele takes gold in Tokyo

John Shortt
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Rory McIlroy of Team Ireland lines up a putt on the 11th green, the third playoff hole for the bronze medal, during the final round of the Men's Individual Stroke Play on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 01, 2021 in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

It wasn’t to be for Rory McIlroy or Shane Lowry in Tokyo as neither made the medal podium at Kasumigaseki Country Club where Xander Schauffele took gold for USA, Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini took silver and C.T. Pan for Chinese Taipei emerged from a playoff for bronze.

McIlroy, who by his own admission has had a change of heart in relation to golf at the Olympics, returned a final round 67 (-4) and qualified for a 7-man playoff for third place with Lowry enduring a more difficult day with a level par 71 to finish T22.

And McIlroy’s close finish to the medals will undoubtedly act as extra motivation for Paris in three years time.

“Yeah that makes me even more determined going to Paris. It’s disappointing going away from here without any hardware and I’ve never tried so hard in my life to finish third,” he said.

“It’s been a great experience and today was a great day. To be up there in contention for a medal certainly had a different feeling to it than I expected and as I said, I’m really looking forward to three years’ time and trying to go at least one better but hopefully three better.”

The 7-way playoff took place over the par-4 18th with 5 players moving to the par 3 10th and onto the par 4 11th, before the bronze medal was finally decided with C.T. Pan winning after a second visit to the 18th.

“A four (person playoff) is the largest I’ve been in so it was interesting having to split us up there and having to ask the official who did what ahead. It was a little different but added another experience to what I’ve done this week for the first time,” said McIlroy.

“A seven-way playoff in sudden death, is a toss of a coin at the end of the day and unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be.”

With a busy end to the season ahead, McIlroy, with WGC, Fed-Ex Cup and of course the Ryder Cup on the horizon, will take a lot from the Olympics, however:

“I’m encouraged. I’ve played a lot better this week than in the previous few weeks  The game is trending in the right direction, I feel like I found a couple of things this week and now it’s off to Memphis.”

Heading to the back nine McIlroy was just two off the leaders and had it all to play for but a bogey on 15 put a dent in his hopes and while he bounced back on 17 with a birdie, he couldn’t find another at 18 which would have elevated him out of the playoff positions and into third place.

“I wasn’t too far behind. I was 15-under and the guys were only at 17-under so I still felt like I had a bit of a chance. After the bogey on 15, those last few holes it was about trying to play for a medal as Sabbatini has already got in there at 17-under so when I birdied 17, I tried my hardest to birdie the last to get in at 16-under.”

It wasn’t to be though and after McIlroy lipped out for birdie to extend his own playoff hopes at the third extra hole, it was Pan who beat Morikawa to the bronze medal with McIlroy singing the praise of the PGA Tour regular.

“I was really happy for him (C.T. Pan), with his wife on the bag, they’re the nicest couple. I see them a lot on the PGA Tour and I’m really happy for him. It’s a very eclectic podium there with Xander, Rory Sabbatini and C.T. but it just shows that golf in the Olympic Games, that’s what it can do.”

And in his final act before departing for US shores, McIlroy was asked to sum up the week in Tokyo and he was pretty definitive.

“Brilliant. I mean, I wish I was leaving here with a medal but it’s been a brilliant week. I’ve really enjoyed spending so much time with Shane and Neil (Manchip – Irish coach) and it’s been a throwback to the good old days when we didn’t play for money.

“It was great, a really enjoyable week and hopefully we can both make it again for the next time.

“I’ve made some comments before that were uneducated and impulsive but coming here, seeing it, feeling it and seeing everything that goes on. Not just Olympic golf, but the Olympics in general. I’m excited about the future.”

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