In April, Hideki Matsuyama made golf history while claiming his and Japan's first-ever major title with a win at the Masters.
On Sunday, he'll play for an Olympic gold medal in his home country. To win, he'll have to catch and pass American Xander Schauffele, his Sunday playing partner from his win at Augusta. He'll also need to fend off a loaded leaderboard with England's Paul Casey and Ireland's Rory McIlroy headlining a tightly packed group not far behind.
Loaded leaderboard after three rounds
Schauffele finished Saturday's third round at -14 to carry the 54-hole lead into Sunday's final round. Matsuyma's a stroke back at -13, while Casey will join them in the final group at -12. On their heels will be Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz (-12) and four players tied at -11 including McIlroy and Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz.
Another high-stakes Sunday featuring Schauffele, Matsuyama
Schauffele and Matsuyama played in a dramatic final pairing at Augusta that saw Matsuyama prevail after Schauffele hit his tee-shot in the water en route to a triple-bogey six on No. 16. A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, Schauffele's been in this position in high-stakes events before. But he's only flirted with victories at majors, recording three top-3 finishes at majors since 2019.
He came into Saturday carrying a two-stroke lead. He didn't feel like he played his best in Round 3, but his five birdies and two bogies were enough to remain atop the leaderboard at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.
"I really did not have my best stuff," Schauffele told Golf Channel after his round. "I kind of got the ball around, made some really important long par putts. Am really fortunate to have a one-stroke lead."
Schauffele has his own ties to Japan
While Matsuyma is the home favorite, Schauffele also has ties to Japan and some comforts of home while playing overseas. His mother was raised in Japan, and his grandparents still live in the Tokyo area along with aunts and uncles. His father Stefan Schauffele is in also in Japan with Xander as his swing coach.
As for the pressure facing Matsuyama playing for gold in his home country, he told Golf Channel that he's been able to drown out the noise and media attention and focus on his golf game.
Sunday has all the makings of a dramatic final round with Olympic gold on the line
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