Xander Shauffele shot a 2-under 68 on Sunday for a one-shot victory over Justin Thomas at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Schauffele, 23, needed four par saves and a 3-foot birdie putt on the final hole to hold off Thomas, who won the FedExCup championship for the first time and the $10 million prize that comes with it.
Schauffele became the first rookie to win the Tour Championship since it began in 1987, and capped an unlikely run. He was ranked No. 134 in the rankings in the first week of June, when he was part of a five-man playoff for two spots to get into the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
Schauffele won the Greenbrier Classic in July to secure his Tour card for the next three seasons and get into the FedExCup playoffs. However, he need to play the final six holes at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms last week in 6-under just to squeak into the Tour Championship.
“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “Five months ago, two months ago, three hours ago, I wasn’t expecting a lot. I hit every goal we’ve ever imagined.”
Schauffele swirled in his birdie putt on the 18th hole Sunday to finish at 12-under 268 for the tournament. He won $3.75 million – including $2 million for vaulting to No. 3 in the FexExCup.
It was an even bigger payday for Thomas, who finished the season with a Tour-best five victories, including his first major at the PGA Championship last month. He won the $10 million bonus, and his second-place finish at the Tour Championship earned him $945,000, pushing Thomas above the $10 million mark in prize money for the year.
He also cemented the points he needed to win player of the year honors in the process.
“It’s huge,” Thomas said. “It’s awesome just because I feel like I played so well this year. I was consistent. A lot of great weeks and great memories even – life-changing events that just ended with another life-changing thing for me. To just have my name on the trophy with the rest of those guys is pretty awesome.”
It was the first time in eight years that one player won the Tour Championship while another won the FedExCup title. Tiger Woods won the Cup in 2009, with Phil Mickelson taking home the title at East Lake.
Thomas surpassed Jordan Spieth, who entered he week No. 1 in the Cup standings. Spieth holed out from the 10th fairway for eagle on Sunday, but his tie for seventh place was not enough for the 2015 FedExCup champion to hold off Thomas.
“J.T. obviously is very well deserving of winning the FedExCup,” Spieth said. “Not winning a playoff event, I almost cheated my way into winning the FedExCup when he really deserved it.”
Schauffele, who entered 2017 ranked No. 299 in the world, jumped 34 spots in the world golf rankings with the victory and is currently No. 32.
NOTES: Paul Casey held a two-shot lead Sunday, but lost it over a stretch of five holes. He was still in contention until hitting his tee shot in the water on the par-3 15th. Casey finished fifth and has now gone 144 starts since his last victory on the PGA Tour at the 2009 Houston Open. … Kevin Kisner shot a 70 on Sunday to finish in a tie for third with Russell Henley (65). … World No. 1 Dustin Johnson shot a 2-over 72 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 17th at 2-under for the tournament. Johnson retained his No. 1 ranking, followed by Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Thomas and Jon Rahm. Rory McIlroy, who did not qualify for the Tour Championship, still rose two spots to No. 6, followed by Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.