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Rory McIlroy ‘happy to be proven wrong’ and Shane Lowry’s ‘goosebumps’ – Irish golfers on the medal hunt in Tokyo


Rory McIlroy is just three shots back going into the final day in Tokyo (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy is just three shots back going into the final day in Tokyo (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Rory McIlroy is just three shots back going into the final day in Tokyo (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Shane Lowry admitted he gets “goosebumps” at the mere mention of medals and even Rory McIlroy confessed he’s “happy to be proven wrong” about golf’s place at the Olympics as they go into the final round with a chance to win gold in Tokyo on Sunday.

McIlroy shot a four-under 67 to share fifth place on 11-under-par, leaving him three shots behind leader Xander Schauffele but just one stroke outside podium places.

And with Lowry just a further shot back in tied 10th after he made a 20 footer for a par at the 18th for a 68, both are excited about their chances of making history on Sunday.

“I and the rest of the field are going into tomorrow trying to achieve something very few golfers ever have,” said McIlroy, who is putting with freedom after switching from a mallet to a blade putter this week.

“It’s going to be a new experience for a lot of us - well, it’s going to be a new experience for all of us trying to win a medal because the three guys who medalled last time aren’t here.

“The closer you get to it, the more you sort of think about it and not the more, not that it weighs on you, but the more you can sort of let your mind drift and think how cool it would be.

“So it’s exciting. So I have got to bring as much enthusiasm to tomorrow as possible and try to play a really good round of golf.”

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American Schauffele overcame a case of the lefts from the tee and birdied the last for a 68 that gave him a one-shot lead over Masters champion and home hero Hideki Matsuyama, who shot 67, on 14-under and a two-shot advantage over England’s Paul Casey (66) and Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz (69).

McIlroy has been reluctant to mention patriotism as his motivation this week.

But he now admits he was wrong to question golf’s place in the Olympics as he is just one round away from potentially becoming an Olympic champion as well a four-time Major winner.

Should he pull it off, he could overcome all the other greats of the game, including Tiger Woods, by completing the “Golden Slam” with victory in the Masters.

“It's brilliant,” McIlroy said when asked if the golfers were feeding off the Team Ireland atmosphere as the medals start to fall in Tokyo. “We are. Look, I think we, everyone sort of ear marked us for potential medals and it's nice going into the final day that we both have that to play for. So two's better than one and one's better than none and good to have both of us up there.”

Just as with the Ryder Cup, McIlroy was not enthusiastic about Olympic golf at first but he has since embraced the concept.

“I'm thinking about that,” admitted McIlroy, who went out in three-under 33, moved to four-under after 13 holes but then followed a three putt bogey at the 16th with a birdie at the 17th.

“I need to give things a chance. I was speaking to my wife last night and saying maybe I shouldn't be so skeptical. But I think I need to do a better job of just giving things a chance, experiencing things, not writing them off at first glance.

“That's sort of a trait of mine, but like I'm happy to be proven wrong. I was proven wrong at the Ryder Cup, I've been proven wrong this week and I'm happy that, I'm happy to say that.”

Lowry picked up four birdies in his first eight holes but after dropping a shot at the ninth, he birdied the 11th, then almost lost a ball in a tree at the 14th but escaped with a bogey six before finishing with a key par save at the 18th.

“I am out there trying to win a medal for my country tomorrow,” Lowry said. “It gives me goosebumps saying that. It would be very special. We don’t win too many gold medals in Ireland. Coming to an Olympic Games, we don’t bring as many medals home as a Team GB or Team USA so it would be nice to be able to produce one of them for my country.”

As for his round, Lowry felt his par save at the last could be huge come tomorrow.

“I think that hopefully I'm standing here tomorrow evening I can look back on that putt and go that was kind of the thing that kicked me on and gave myself the opportunity to go on and try and win a medal tomorrow,” he said. “Because obviously I'm three back now [he finished four behind], the three lads have the 18th to play, if I'm three back in the final round that's where I want to be.

“I came here at the start of the week and all I wanted was a chance to win a medal. A chance to go out on Sunday and be in contention. That's been in my head all week. I've got that chance now and it's very exciting.”

As for Ireland’s Olympics so far, Lowry is just happy he and McIlroy can add to the medal haul on Sunday.

“Yeah, it's nice to see a couple of medals been come back to Ireland. Obviously it would be nice to get a couple more. Myself and Rory have a great chance to do something. It would be great to see two of us on the podium. I think that's something that we obviously will talk about over dinner tonight and we'll go out tomorrow and give it our best. Like I said, it's a huge opportunity for me to do something very special for Irish golf and Irish sport I think.”

He added: “We’re there going into tomorrow and we're both very excited. You can see Rory as the week's gone on, the more about the Olympics he's getting and the more it means to him. So I'm sure he's going to go out there all guns blazing tomorrow and try to win a medal and I'll do the same.

“I think obviously gold medal would be very special but just a medal here would be something very special and to be able to hang one of those around your neck would be pretty cool.

“I'm just excited and I can't wait to go out there and give it a good run tomorrow and hopefully do something very special.”

McIlroy admitted his excitement levels have increased daily and having started the week saying he didn’t know what an Olympic medal would mean to him, he now admits it would be special.

“As it gets closer and you get closer to that, I guess, finishing line for want of a better word, that you start thinking about it a little bit more,” he said. “Last week an Olympic medal, well I don't know really know what that would mean to me and now that you’ve got a chance to do it it's like, geez, that would be pretty cool.

“The only thing you ask of yourself going in on a Sunday at any golf tournament is just give yourself a chance. Then it's up to me to play the best golf that I can to try to get the job done.”

As for medal pressure, he added: “The reason I'm playing well this week and better than I've played the last few weeks is because I have been so relaxed and I played freely. I've tried to keep that sort of vibe going and I need to keep that going for one more day.”

Schauffele, Matsuyama and Casey will play in the final group with McIlroy second last out with Ortiz and Colombia’s Sebastian Muñoz.

Lowry will tee off in he fourth last group with Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Australia’s Cameron Smith, just ahead of Chile’s Mito Pereira. Austria’s Sepp Straka and Great Britain’s Tommy Fleetwood, who moved up to tied ninth with Lowry after a third round 64.

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