The third round of action at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics proved the most dramatic yet as a number of challengers pushed 36-hole leader, Xander Schauffele on moving day. However, the American warded off surges from some of golf's biggest stars to retain his lead at the 54-hole mark over a crowded leaderboard as he heads to the final round at 14-under.
Schauffele in day three of action at Kasumigaseki Country Club took awhile to settle in after his 8-under 63 in Round 2 that tied an Olympic record. He eventually found a groove on the back nine and leaned heavily on his putter down the stretch. Playing the final eight holes at 2-under, he finished with a birdie at 18 for a second consecutive day to give him a one-stroke lead ahead of Round 4.
Japan's Hideki Matsuyama made par at 18 just prior to Schauffele's final-hole birdie, a one-stroke swing that served as the difference in the gap at the top of the leaderboard, but he remains hot on Schauffele's tail. A 4-under 67 propelled him to within a stroke of the lead and he sits alone in second on the leaderboard at 13 under. Not far behind is a cadre of contenders with Great Britain's Paul Casey and Mexico's Carlos Ortiz tied for third at 12-under. Sebastian Munoz (Colombia), Rory McIlroy (Ireland), Mito Pereira (Chile) and Sepp Straka (Austria) are all T5 at 11-under.
Let's take a look at what the leaderboard looks like entering the final round.
1. Xander Schauffele (-14): Schauffele couldn't get out of his own way to start his round and left a much lower number out on the course. His opening-nine 1-under 35 marked his worst start of the week. He eventually got going with a birdie at 11, though, and seemed to find a groove with his putter down the stretch. The bogey on No. 16 (his first time not making birdie at 16 all week) was a missed opportunity but he finished in a big way that should launch him into Round 4 with confidence.
2. Hideki Matsuyama (-13): After opening the day three strokes off Schauffele's lead, Matsuyama inched to within two before his third round began (he resumed suspended play and finished his final two holes at 1-under). He then continued that momentum into Round 3 with only one bogey (at No. 1) and five birdies. He rarely got himself out of position and made big putts down the stretch to apply pressure on Schauffele.
T3. Paul Casey and Carlos Ortiz (-12): Casey was the first of this top group to get in the clubhouse. He had his best round of the week with a 5-under 66, and was able to overcome a bogey on 14 with a pair of crucial birdies at 17 and 18. Ortiz went the opposite direction. He found himself tied for the lead entering the final hole but bogeyed 18 while Schauffele birdied it, a two-stroke swing that has him two off the lead.
T5. Rory McIlroy, Sebastian Munoz, Mito Pereira, Sepp Straka (-11): Ireland was well-represented on the leaderboard after Round 3 with McIlroy making his run and Shane Lowry (T9) doing the same. McIlroy was the story here, though, as he torched the front for a second consecutive day. He left himself a few poor positions off the tee but he scrambled well to get in at 67 and showed enough confidence with his putter that, if he puts it all together, could make him one capable of making a run at the medal stand in Round 4.