San Diego-born and raised Xander Schauffele holds a one-stroke lead over 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama entering Saturday’s final round of the men’s Olympic golf tournament.
Schauffele shot an 8-under-par 63 the second round Thursday, California time, to take a one-stroke lead over Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz. But Schauffele struggled early in the third round Friday at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, Japan, putting his opening tee shot far left and not hitting his first fairway until the eighth hole.
“Golf is funny,” Schauffele said. “You kind of have to fall back on parts of your game when other parts aren’t working. I think I feel like yesterday I wouldn’t say I was firing on all cylinders but things were clicking kind of coming home. Man, was it a different day today.”
A bogey on the par-3 seventh hole dropped the San Diego State and Scripps Ranch High School graduate into a five-way tie for the lead. Schauffele, Matsuyama and Ortiz, who were playing in the same group, all shot birdies on the par-5 eighth hole to move to 12-under.
Schauffele regained the solo lead with a birdie on the par-4 11th hole which Matsuyama parred and Ortiz bogeyed to drop two strokes behind. Ortiz birdied the par-4 13th hole to rejoin Matsuyama at one stroke back.
Schauffele added another birdie on the par-4 15th hole to move two ahead of Ortiz, Matsuyama and Paul Casey of Great Britain who birdied his final two holes to complete his round at 5-under-par 66, dropping to 12-under for the tournament.
Schauffele fell back into a tie for the lead with Ortiz on the par-3 16th hole which Schauffele bogeyed and Ortiz birdied. Matsuyama regained a share of the lead with a birdie on the par-4 17th hole.
On the par-4, 500-yard 18th hole Schauffele hit his drive 326 yards, then used a 9-iron to hit his second shot 174 yards, leaving him with a 2-foot, 10-inch putt for birdie which he sank for sole possession of the lead at 14- under-par 199 after the round of 3-under-par 68 with five birdies and two bogeys.
Ortiz and Casey are tied for third, two strokes off the lead, with four golfers tied for fifth, three strokes off the lead.
Schauffele said that after his news conference, he would go to the driving range to work with his father Stefan, the only swing coach he’s had.
“I can tell you it’s probably one of four things,” said Schauffele, who is seeking his first victory since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. “Hopefully I don’t have to hit too many balls to run through all four of those things.
“He may have seen some things, that’s why he’s out here for these moments. When I clearly wasn’t able to sort of figure it out myself I need sort of an eye to let me know if I missed something, so we’ll just do a little tune- up.”