31 July 2021: The five rings on their bags and the flag on their sleeves is added incentive for some of the finest golfers this week to dig deep and discover their best golf. Hideki Matsuyama is feeling the heat and showing up with some brilliant golf. On Saturday, he shot an elegant 67, helping himself to just one stroke of the leader, Xander Schauffele. The Japanese will begin in the final group on Sunday. The bag may be on his caddie’s shoulder, but the burden of a nation’s hopes with rest squarely on his broad frame as he begins the final round at 13-under 200.
Anirban Lahiri and Udayan Mane are carrying India’s hopes, beginning the week with a fond desire to turn some focus on golf, in a country where cricket and a handful of Olympic sports dominate the discourse. The two men may not have entirely achieved those aspirations, just yet, but with 18 holes left to play on Sunday, there is plenty they could yet do to arouse their vocal fans. Lahiri is 6-under through 54 holes, with the help of a 68 in the third round.
Mane shot a 70, but he is working his way back from an opening 76 that took a great deal of recovery. He has played well since then, including a 69 in the second round. He made two birdies on either side of his trek around the East Course of Kasumigaseki Country Club outside Tokyo.
Anirban made a brilliant eagle on the par-5 eighth hole and two other birdies as he continued to press hard for a ride up the order. At the end of the round, the Indian took to social media to express his desire to go all out on Sunday.
Disappointing and frustrating 24 hours on the greens. Just couldn’t get the ball in the hole. Will give my all tomorrow. Hope the golf gods smile on me and the hole looks like a ? #onefinalpush #teamindia pic.twitter.com/PN22ELfAOu
— Anirban Lahiri (@anirbangolf) July 31, 2021
At the front, Schauffele, who is playing for country and parents, is poised to contend for gold on Sunday. The American’s father was a German hopeful in the Decathlon, but missed out on making it to the Olympics. He shot five birdies in making 68, enough to leave him one ahead of the local hope Matsuyama.
The Japanese made a nervous start with a bogey on the first hole, before coasting through a familiar course with a steady hand. His 67 contained four birdies on the way out and a nice punctuation three on the par-4 17 as he completed the round without any further blemishes after the first hole.
Paul Casey (66) and Carlos Ortiz (69) were tied in third at 12-under 201.
The first round leader Sepp Straka brought it back with a 68 moving to 11-under through 54 holes. Chilean Mito Pereira (68) and Colombian Sebastian (66) Munoz kept South American hopes burning bright as they drew level with Straka in T5. A four time major winner is gradually warming up to the idea of the Olympics and keeping them company. Rory McIlroy is enthralled by his ride at Tokyo 2020, playing well for a second straight day. He shot 67 on Saturday as he put himself in contention for the podium.
Tommy Fleetwood made a big move. The Englishman moved into T9 with a third round 64. The 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry is right alongside him at 10-under with a 68.