Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry both remain well within striking distance of Xander Schauffele who birdied the 18th hole at Kasumigaseki Country Club Saturday to hold a one-stroke lead, on 14-under par, heading into the final round of the Olympic men’s golf competition.
McIlroy and Lowry, paired together in round three, both found themselves four shots off the pace at the start of the day and returned rounds of 67 (-4) and 68 (-3) respectively and with only the top three places being of any consequence this week it will undoubtedly be all out attack for both players tomorrow in Tokyo.
In T5 place on 11-under par McIlroy is now just three off the lead and is determined to give it everything in the final round.
“I was trying to keep pace with Shane on the front nine today as he got off to a great start but we kept it really relaxed out there like it’s been all week and I was cheering just as much for his shots as I was for me own.
“I’m going to give it my all tomorrow. This is the last opportunity to do this for another 3 years, usually it’s four but this time it’s three, so I’m going to give it my all, leave it all out there and hopefully it’s enough.”
Lowry is just one shot behind McIlroy on 10-under par and is in T9 alongside Tommy Fleetwood and was left to rue some bad luck after his ball got stuck up a tree on the 14th but, like McIlroy, he remains optimistic and determined.
“Rory and I played together today and we were trying to spur each other on. Obviously I’m competing against him so I want to beat him, but I want him to play well too.
“I’ve made five bogeys and fifteen birdies this week so I don’t feel like I’m playing out of my skin, but I feel like I have a low score in me and wouldn’t it be a great day for it to happen tomorrow!
“I was very happy with that putt on the last, that was huge for me and it would have made my evening a little more disappointing than it is. Three-under (his score today) is not the greatest score out there but it’s still decent and I’ve got a chance to do something very special tomorrow.
“I’m looking forward to it and I’m hoping I can go out and play my best golf tomorrow. One thing is for certain is I’m going to give it my best shot.
When asked about his Olympic experience Lowry is clearly enjoying it and wants to do it all again; “It’s just great to have been a part of this. I wish it was different, I wish Covid wasn’t here but it makes we want to make sure my name is on the tee sheet for Paris.”
McIlroy and Lowry were watched by their Team Ireland teammates Leona Maguire & Stephanie Meadow who have arrived in Tokyo ahead of the women’s golf event next week and McIlroy thinks it’s good that they’ve arrived early.
“It was great to see them (Stephanie & Leona) and it’s good for them to get here early and watch us to see how the golf course plays and hopefully that’s good preparation for them going into their tournament next week.”
The man to catch tomorrow is Xander Schauffele who was fighting his swing off the tee most of the day and didn’t hit his first fairway until the eighth hole, but he dug deep and relied on his putter to keep himself in the gold medal position with one round to go.
“Yeah, it’s been a fun week, in a good position going into tomorrow,” Schauffele said.
“Your putter doesn’t know how bad you’re swinging it, it’s a completely different part of the game,” he added. “So I made that joke to my caddie on 9 saying, if I can roll this in, it’s ugly, but we’re getting it done right now. So I would like tomorrow to be a little bit more fun all around.”
Hideki Matsuyama (Japan) is in solo second at -13 with Carlos Ortiz (Mexico) and Paul Casey (Great Britain) two shots back in a tie for third.