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Where do we begin? Storylines are running rampant heading into the final round of the 2020 Olympic Games. From Xander Schauffele continuing to lead, hoping to realize a family dream, to Hideki Matsuyama, the home country hero, one-stroke behind, looking keep the gold medal in Japan and win at Kasumigaseki Country Club once again.
Of course, there’s Paul Casey, who alongside teammate Tommy Fleetwood, were arguably the most excited duo entering the week. On the other end of the spectrum, there was Rory McIlroy, who has since found a new sense of motivation and appreciation for the Olympics and is already looking forward to Paris in 2024.
We could go on and on, yet it’s Matsuyama’s story that continues to not only catch my eyes, but impress me. Winning the Masters in April, Matsuyama was finally able to bring Japan a major championship, a country that has been longing for men’s golf success.
Fast forward to the Rocket Mortgage Classic and Matsuyama had to withdraw before the second round due to a positive COVID-19 test. This meant no Open Championship and no competitive golf till the Olympic Games.
There are plenty of reasons Matsuyama should not be in the position he is in heading into the final round. Quarantining, lack of practice, home country expectations, media obligations, yet here he is.
With rounds of 69-64-67, Matsuyama has gotten around Kasumigaseki CC in an unusual, but effective manner. It’s been all short-game for Japan’s own, boasting +4.65 Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and +3.53 SG: Putting through three rounds.
Typically, a ball-striking savant, Matsuyama will need that skillset to return in tomorrow’s final round if he expects to chase down Schauffele. Sitting at +275 at PointsBet Sportsbook, Matsuyama trails only the American on both the odds board and the leaderboard.
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Updated Odds to Win the Gold Medal (Odds Via PointsBet):
+175: Xander Schauffele
+275: Hideki Matsuyama
+650: Paul Casey
+1000: Rory McIlroy
+1200: Carlos Ortiz
+3300: Shane Lowry
Round 4 Plays (Odds Via PointsBet):
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+425 to finish inside the top-10):
If you’re itching for an outright selection, you won’t be finding it here, as we’ll be hoping for final round heroics from either Ortiz or Smith. Instead, we’ll venture to the top-10 market where I believe a couple players could make late pushes up the leaderboard.
The first is Bezuidenhout, who appeared to finally figure out his iron-play on Saturday. Posting +2.21 SG: Approach, the South African carded a third-round score of 3-under 68. This becomes even more impressive when considering the fact that he also posted –2.08 SG: Putting.
Sitting at 7-under for the tournament and in a tie for 17th, Bezuidenhout has some leap frogging to do. While each aspect of his game has shown up at one point or another during this tournament, he has yet to piece it all together. Based on how he struck the golf ball on Saturday, I’ll take my chances in saying that Sunday will finally be the day his game is fully in sync.
Mackenzie Hughes (+450 to finish inside the top-10):
Also, at 7-under is Hughes, who put together one of the rounds of the day on Saturday. Carding a six-under 65, the Canadian was finally able to find some form on the greens. After poor performances with the flat stick the first two days, Hughes posted +2.56 SG: Putting in the third round.
He struggled a bit off-the-tee, but the irons have been fantastic going back the past month or so. He gained more than two-strokes on approach in Round 1 and was solid in that department yesterday as well. While it’s reassuring to see the putter come back to life, it’s the iron-play that makes him well-suited for a Sunday charge.
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