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The big question with one round to go in the Zozo Championship, this week’s PGA Tour stop at Accordia Golf Narashino located just east of Tokyo, is whether anyone can catch Hideki Matsuyama, easily the local favorite among the cordial Japanese crowds.
Matsuyama has maintained a slim lead through the past two rounds but doesn’t seem to be all that pleased with his game, which earlier this week he called a 1 out of 10.
There’s no cut in the limited-field Zozo, so it’s a crowded weekend tee sheet. For those who didn’t catch the overnight action from the third round, we’re here to catch you up on where things stand heading into Sunday.
1. Hideki hanging on
The hometown hero seems locked in as he plays in front of a friendly crowd, but Matsuyama hasn’t quite been able to pull away in the first three rounds of the Zozo. Amid Saturday’s much more favorable weather conditions, Matsuyama put together a second consecutive round of 68 to reach 10 under and maintain a one-shot lead.
Matsuyama was cruising until bogeying the 18th, where his closest pursuer, Cameron Tringale, birded to close the gap.
“I’ll win if I play well and lose if I don’t,” Matsuyama said when asked what he hopes to show the home crowd. “I’ve been playing good golf these past three days, so hopefully I can do the same tomorrow.”
Matsuyama finished T6 at the Fortinet Championship to start the 2021-22 PGA Tour season and tied for second at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in August, but he hasn’t won since the Masters in April.
2. No walk in the park
Better conditions didn’t translate into easier on Saturday, as Tringale noted.
“It was really tricky out there with the wind and as fast as the greens and everything, it was not an easy day out there, so 2 under, pretty good score,” Tringale said of his third-round 68. “Yeah, just got to move on when you get a tough gust or something and I was able to do that, so pleased with the day.”
He benefited tremendously from his two-shot swing on the final hole, which leaves him right on Matsuyama’s heels.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 23, 2021
3. Making the most of an up-and-down day
Collin Morikawa of the United States is seen on the 4th tee during the third round of the ZOZO Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on October 23, 2021 in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
One of Saturday’s biggest movers was Collin Morikawa, who moved 12 spots up the lead into solo eighth thanks in large part to an eagle at the par-5 18th that finished off a third-round 67.
There were certainly highs and lows, however, as Morikawa hit a dubious first for his young career: a shank in competition. Morikawa was standing over a wedge in the middle of No. 6 fairway and from there ended up in the trees.
“Yeah, shanked a pitching wedge straight in the trees,” he admitted. “So really good way to start the day after being 1 under through five.”
Despite the low number, Morikawa admitted the whole day was a grind.
“I really had no clue where the ball was going to go, I was kind of just trying to make contact and thankfully the putting was working today,” he said. “Obviously really nice to finish on a couple lucky breaks with the tee shot left ending up in the fairway, hitting a bad second shot and then chipping it obviously to end the day.
4. Colorful card does the trick
Sebastian Munoz of Colombia hits his tee shot on the 6th hole during the third round of the ZOZO Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on October 23, 2021 in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
Sebastian Munoz certainly put together one of the most exciting rounds, going 2 under through his first three holes before erasing that edge with back-to-back bogeys then following with two more birdies at Nos. 5 and 8. Munoz continued that trend on the back nine with two more bogeys and two more birdies to end up with a 2-under 68.
He sits at 6 under and in a tie for third with Brendan Steele and Matt Wallace.
“I definitely made a couple bogeys on 4, 5, 10 and 12, but I’m happy, really happy with the way I stayed in it,” he said. “You know, like after that good start, making those two bogeys and then kind of getting back again at 2 under, so really proud of myself.”
5. Gold-medal check
Xander Schauffele hits his tee shot on the 11th holeî during the second round of the ZOZO Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on October 22, 2021 in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
A third-round 68 was too little, too late for Xander Schauffele, who took home a gold medal the last time he competed in Japan in this year’s Olympic Games.
Saturday was a ho-hum day for Schauffele, who opened the week with rounds of 70-74 and at 2 over, is 12 shots off the pace and in a tie for 36th. That position, however, is 22 spots better than he sat after the second round.
Schauffele isn’t the only American struggling at Accordia this week. Rickie Fowler hasn’t been able to get much going and with rounds of 70-71-71 and is part of that tie for 36th.
Will Zalatoris is 8 over and T-66 after rounds of 69-76-73.