Tokyo: Xander Schauffele shot a sparkling eight-under 63 at the Olympic golf on Friday as he put the United States in the gold medal position before the second round was abandoned for the day due to a late threat of lightning.
Schauffele is sharing the Games experience with his swing coach father Stefan, whose dreams of representing Germany in Olympic track and field were dashed nearly 40 years ago when he lost an eye in a car crash.
The 27-year-old Californian made his father proud as he roared home with three consecutive birdies, rolling in a 13-foot putt on the 18th at Kasumigaseki Country Club to pip Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz for the outright lead with an 11-under total of 131.
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Moments after Schauffele’s putt, play was suspended and then abandoned for the day, leaving his group and five others still to complete their rounds.
It was the third such disruption for the tournament and the second for the day, with play suspended for more than two hours just before midday.
Local favourite Hideki Matsuyama was among those whose second rounds were left hanging but the Masters champion is well positioned going into the weekend.
Japan’s first major winner, who has battled to recover after falling ill with COVID-19 earlier this month, was among four tied for third at eight-under for the tournament when his round was cut short on the 17th.
Former world number one Rory McIlroy is also in the mix after completing a round of 66 to stand a stroke further adrift in a group on seven-under with Ireland team mate Shane Lowry.
“The goal today was to sort of get back in touch,” McIlroy told reporters. “I just wanted to get in contention going into the weekend and still feel I was part of the tournament.”
British Open champion Collin Morikawa (70) and United States team mate Patrick Reed (71) have work to do over the weekend to threaten for medals.
The pair were in a group tied at three-under, eight strokes adrift of Schauffele.
McIlroy, without a cap with no sponsor to please, took off with a brilliant birdie-birdie-eagle run from the sixth hole.
“I sort of played similarly to how I played yesterday,” said McIlroy after his five-under par round on the 7,447-yard par-71 course softened by days of rain.
“I just played the par-fives better. I played the par-fives in even par yesterday and I played them in three-under today and that’s the difference between the two scores. So yeah, it was good.”
Birdies at 14 and 17 took McIlroy briefly to eight-under par before an errant drive at the final hole saw only his second dropped shot in a round of 66.
It proved a great day for Team Ireland as Shane Lowry carded a superb six-under 65 to move level with McIlroy meaning the pair, both resplendent in traditional green, could play in the same group on Saturday.
“It’s not like we would be out there helping each other, bur we’re definitely trying to produce at least one medal for the team,” said Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion
“We would be out there kind competing against each other, but it would be nice to be playing with a friend and a really good golfer.”
Surprise first-round leader Sepp Straka of Austria fell off the pace by going to the turn in two-over 38 but recovered and a birdie at the last gave him a level-par 71.