Canadians Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners turned in their finest performances of the Olympic men’s golf event on Saturday to move to within seven shots of the lead with one round remaining at the Kasumigaseki Country Club East Course near Tokyo.
After finishing his second round with an even par 71 on Saturday, Conners came right back with a bogey-free, five-under 66. Hughes finished the third round with a 65.
At seven under, both Canadians are tied for 17th, five shots out of medal contention.
American Xander Schauffele leads at 14 under, with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama a shot back and England’s Paul Casey and Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz tied for third, each at 12 under.
Conners said his best round of the tournament could have been even better in the sweltering temperatures on Saturday in Japan.
“This is probably one of the hotter days I played ever. Living in Florida now, I’m used to kind of the heat and humidity, but it was toasty out there for sure,” said Conners.
“My caddie was on the ball today. He had a bunch of extra towels. We were dipping some in the ice buckets and keeping them cool, kind of wrapping around my neck and using a bunch of towels to keep my hands and arms dry,” he said.
“I’m fairly pleased with the third round. I was a little sour after the first couple, didn’t feel like I played my best and definitely made some mistakes that I would like to redo, but nice to play pretty solid in the third round again,” he added.
“I could have got a lot more out of the round. I feel like I played well and gave myself a lot of good chances and wasn’t able to get super hot,” said Conners, who is still getting used to the greens.
“They’re pretty tricky, quite a bit of slope to them. From being so soft, the approach shots kind of are tricky with the slope, so you’ve got to control the spin, make sure you hit it in the right section of the green, but they’re tricky to read, there’s some slopes and some subtle break that has been fooling me a little bit,” he said.
“I just find that they’re so pure and so uniform that sometimes, it’s hard to see the slope as it normally would be. I’m kind of used to playing in the U.S., more Bermuda grass where you can see the grain. These are like really smooth carpets, so the perception of some of the putts is a little challenging,” said Conners.
It was on those greens that Hughes found success on Saturday.
“Today, the difference really was I saw a few putts go in the hole from a little bit further out, kind of mid-range distance. It kind of got the round going a bit, got me some momentum and, yeah, it was really a fun day. I kind of wish I could have gotten a couple more, but yeah, happy with the day overall,” he said.
Hughes agrees that the heat is oppressive, but with one round remaining, he needs to keep Saturday’s momentum going on the final day.
“I know I’m still well on the outside looking in, but I do have a chance and you always have a chance until the last shot I guess, so I’m going to give it all I have on (Sunday) and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
The leaderboard is here.