Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy are within touching distance of the leaders in the Olympic men’s golf tournament and yet the 2019 Open champion believes both players have more in the locker as they hunt down places on the podium tomorrow.
Lowry shot a three-under 68 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club here on Saturday and now sits on ten-under for the week. That leaves him in a tie for ninth and four off the leader Xander Schauffele heading into the final round.
The Offaly man was three-under for the first nine but struggled on the way in. A bogey at the par-five 14th was bad but could have been worse had he not found his ball stuck up a tree and incorporated another lost shot.
A decent par-saving putt at the 18th helped keep him in touch on a course that is playing similarly to an American PGA venue but offering up lower scores thanks to soft conditions.
McIlroy shot one better, a 67, but he too lost some momentum on the back nine after a decent start. Still, they have played consistent golf all week and look well primed to make a run for the podium.
"Yeah it was great,” said Lowry. “Look, I don't think the two of us played our best on the back nine. I think we probably should have shot better scores than we did but we're there. You know, you don't win tournaments on a Saturday but you can lose them, so we're there going into tomorrow, and we're both very excited.
“You can see with Rory as the week has gone on the more excited about the Olympics that he's getting and the more it means to him. So I'm sure he's going to go out tomorrow all guns blazing to try and get a medal and I'm going to do same.” McIlroy admits that the experience has grown on him.
Skeptical about golf’s introduction to the Olympics at first, he opted against playing in Rio five years ago and he has admitted that he is not the most patriotic of people but he has held his hand up in error before and has done so again here.
“I’ve been thinking about that, and I need to give things a chance. I was speaking about it with my wife last night and I was like, ‘maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge’. I need to do a better job of giving things a chance, experiencing things, and not writing them off at a glance.
“That’s sort of a trait of mine but I’m happy to be proven wrong. I was proven wrong about the Ryder Cup and I’m happy to be proven wrong this week.”
The four-time Major champion took in the men’s 10,000, final last night and found the recent European Championships another pleasant distraction from the daily business of playing golf. He credits his form here this week to how relaxed he has been.
The two Irishman played their third round together, alongside Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, and they have clearly enjoyed the experience as they go about trying to claim a medal for themselves this week.
“Everyone understandably had earmarked us for potential medals,” said McIlroy, “and it’s nice going into the final day to have that chance. Two is better than one, one is better than none.”