Olympic Men's Golf: Smith to Mount Charge

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It was more of the same at Kasumigaseki Country Club on Friday. Birdies were bountiful, weather was uncooperative, yet all in all it was a fantastic day (or night) of golf. The oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook were keen to a big Friday for Xander Schauffele and that’s exactly what they received.

Despite starting the second round five-strokes off the lead of Sepp Straka, Schauffele was the overnight favorite at +1000. That number is long gone as the American blitzed Kasumigaseki CC on Friday, firing a round of 8-under 63.

With his front-nine being interrupted by a weather delay, Schauffele dropped a shot on the par-3 7th after players were allowed back onto the golf course. He called it a blessing in disguise as once the world No. 5 made the turn home; he didn't look back.

An eagle on the par-5 14th was an added bonus, as a two-putt from where he was on the green would have surely been a good result. He then threw a dart on the par-3 16th, another on the par-4 17th, and for good measure added a closing birdie on the par-4 18th.

Schauffele’s struggles to close out tournaments has been well documented over the last two years. Winless since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Schauffele has had his fair share of close calls ever since tracking down Gary Woodland that fateful Sunday in Kapalua.

A three-putt on the 72nd hole a year later left him in a playoff with Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed only to come up just short. Earlier this season in Phoenix, while Spieth mania was buzzing, Schauffele shared the 54-hole lead. A round of even-par 71 wasn’t enough as he fell one-stroke shy of Brooks Koepka. However, maybe an event such as the Olympic Games is exactly what Schauffele needs.

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Uber important in his family and featuring a limited field, this week feels right up his alley. With four Tour victories to his credit, his last three have been in no-cut events. If there was a spot for him to finally get back into the winner’s circle, this would be it. As an added bonus, he would just happen to capture a gold medal along the way.

It won’t be easy though. With the Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry lurking and plenty more, Schauffele holds a one-stroke lead heading into the weekend. Players such as Hideki Matsuyama and Paul Casey remain on the golf course needing to complete their second rounds, potentially condensing the leaderboard even more.

With Round 2 set to be wrapped up tomorrow morning, 16 players were left on the golf course as the last delay of the evening rolled through. Despite this, we will get into one selection for the weekend play in the Tokyo Games.

Updated Odds to Win the Gold Medal (Odds Via PointsBet):

+137: Xander Schauffele

+450: Hideki Matsuyama

+800: Carlos Ortiz

+1200: Rory McIlroy

+1600: Paul Casey

+2000: Alex Noren, Mito Pereira

+2200: Shane Lowry

+3000: Viktor Hovland

+3500: Sepp Straka

+5000: Jhonattan Vegas, Sebastian Munoz

+6000: Guido Migliozzi, Jazz Janewattananond

+8000: Collin Morikawa, Thomas Detry

+10000: Cameron Smith, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Rory Sabbatini

Round 3 Plays (Odds Via PointsBet):

Cameron Smith (+10000 to win):

With a pre-tournament Ortiz ticket in our back pocket, we understand that he may have a tall mountain to climb over the next couple of days. This in mind, we’ll add another player to our arsenal, and while someone like Hovland at five-under is catching my eye, it’s Smith who will be getting the eventual call.

Having found the water on the 18th hole, Smith ended his day on a low note, carding a double-bogey six. Once at 6-under, Smith instantly plummeted down the leaderboard and now sits in a tie for 20th, seven-strokes off Schauffele’s lead.

Posting +4.08 Strokes Gained: Approach in Round 2, the Australian’s irons were red hot. However, the putter was ice cold for the second consecutive day. Losing nearly –1.40 SG: Putting through the first two rounds, the Zurich Classic champion will need to find some form on the greens.

However, when he's on, Smith can be one of the best putters in the world. Will that happen over the weekend? I’m not sure, but at +10000, and with a top of a leaderboard that lacks my confidence, I figure it’s worth a shot in finding out.

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