Xander Schauffele landed Olympic gold on the golf course for the United States after a dramatic final round saw Rory Sabbatini's 61 almost snatch top spot on the podium.

A terrific third shot at the 18th left Schauffele with a short putt for victory, after he found deep rough off the tee and could not go for the green in regulation.

He held his nerve to protect his one-shot advantage, finishing on 18 under par as Sabbatini took a spirited silver for Slovakia.

The battle for the bronze at Kasumigaseki Country Club went down to a seven-man play-off, with Chinese Taipei's world number 208 CT Pan landing the third-place medal and Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy among those left disappointed.

By the time they reached the fourth extra hole it was down to a two-man battle between Open champion Morikawa and Pan, who had both posted closing 63s. Morikawa found sand with his second shot, the ball becoming plugged, and although he just about got it on the green, the putt he left went astray, leaving Pan to roll in an eight-footer for the medal.

Schauffele and Matsuyama were in Sunday's final group to start, just as they were at The Masters in April when Japan's newest golf star became his country's first men's major champion.

This time it was Schauffele's time to triumph, with the 27-year-old Las Vegas resident, who was born in San Diego, just about doing enough as a four-under 67 sealed the title.

And he could relax at last, the tension of the past hour all forgotten.


THIS ONE'S FOR DAD

Schauffele, whose mother was raised in Japan, was asked if it was his biggest career win and replied: "I'd like to say so, yeah."

His father, Stefan, has been with him in a coaching capacity this week, and Schauffele said: "I really wanted to win for my dad. I am sure he is crying somewhere right now. I kind of wanted this one more than any other.

"You are trying to represent your country to the best of your ability and then you add family stuff on top of that and I'm probably going to have a nice call with my grandparents tonight. I am sure they are back home, everyone is back home watching. I was feeling the love from San Diego and Las Vegas this whole time.

"I'm a little speechless right now, quite honestly."

 

Schauffele almost lost his ball when he drove into trees on the right side of the fairway on the par-five 14th, hitting a provisional ball in case there was no sign of the first.

That ball was soon located though, with Schauffele taking a penalty to bring it into a just-about playable position.

Matsuyama found the green in two but Schauffele was still short after four and was grateful to make six. Matsuyama went close with his eagle putt but had to settle for birdie, moving one shot behind Schauffele who slipped back to join Sabbatini on 17 under.

"It got a little dicey there," Schauffele later said. "When you are trying to win you need some things to go your way. I took a pretty big risk trying a hack-it-through-a-bush type shot and it missed my gap. I literally did the Matrix through these trees and it could have easily hit a tree and gone out. So, today was definitely my day."


HANGING TOUGH, DESPITE THE ROUGH

It was a hectic leaderboard all day long. Sabbatini had come from way back in the field thanks to his 10-under round and was waiting in the clubhouse to see what reward that would bring him.

Home favourite Matsuyama bogeyed the next to fall two back but gave himself a chance of birdie at the short next hole with a tee shot to around 10 feet, only to miss by a whisker.

Ireland's McIlroy was then two inches away from a birdie at the last that would have taken him to 16 under and secured bronze, yet he went into the play-off instead, as did Matsuyama.

Schauffele made birdie at 17 to edge in front on his own, and after the wretched tee shot at the last threatened to undo his gold medal mission, the American saved his best for last.

The third shot was almost right at the pin, finishing four feet away. Schauffele made no mistake, succeeding Justin Rose as Olympic champion, with the sport having returned to the Games programme in 2016 for the first time in 112 years.

The play-off also featured Chile's Mito Pereira, Great Britain's Paul Casey and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, with Pan the unlikely figure to emerge with the bronze.

Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele battled it out for Masters glory and now they will go head to head in a scramble for Olympic gold on Sunday.

Japanese superstar Matsuyama trails American Schauffele by one shot going into the final round at Kasumigaseki Country Club, and they will join Paul Casey in the final group out.

A home triumph for Matsuyama at the Tokyo Games would be an extremely popular result in Japan, but the top 10 are separated by only four strokes, so medals remain firmly in the sights of a host of players.


AS AUGUST ARRIVES, AN AUGUSTA REPEAT

Almost four months have gone by since Matsuyama became the first Japanese man to win a major, when he edged home at Augusta National on a tense final day.

He partnered Schauffele for the final two rounds at the Georgia course, and the same thing has played out this week, with the August 1 finale to the golf event sure to make for absorbing sporting theatre.

The big-name front-runners also had Mexican Carlos Ortiz for company on Saturday, but it was Schauffele who stayed at the head of the pack after following Friday's 63 with a hard-fought 68 to reach 14 under, with Matsuyama on 13 under after a 67, having completed a second-round of 64 earlier in the day.

Schauffele "hung tough", the American said, relying on solid putting to dig him out of trouble as he struggled with his long game.

It was Matsuyama who led going into the final round at The Masters in April, when he held a four-shot cushion but ended up winning by only one after a 73. Schauffele's hopes disappeared when he found water and made six at the par-three 16th that day.

Despite the gold medal being a tantalising target, Schauffele said Saturday had been a routine day on the course.

"Tomorrow may feel a little different," he said. "There's a little bit more on the line than what we normally play for and you're trying to represent your country to the best of your ability."

He was impressed by Matsuyama, who is playing his first event since testing positive for COVID-19, which forced him to miss the Open Championship.

"He seems to be fine," Schauffele said. "Teeing up, he seems strong, he seems normal and he seems himself. Luckily he wasn't hit too hard by it.

"He was firing on a lot of cylinders when he won the Masters. He's maybe not in his realm of perfection, hitting it as well as he'd want to, but he's one back.

"Hideki's a great player, our current Masters champion. I plan on wearing that [green] jacket some day as well. I assume we'll be playing in more final groups for years to come."


JAPAN EXPECTS, CAN HIDEKI DELIVER?

After the blow of Naomi Osaka losing early in the women's tennis, her fellow global superstar is coming good on the golf course.

Matsuyama has been surprised by his recovery from COVID and would love a medal from Tokyo's Games, expressing obvious pleasure at being in the mix so soon after being ill.

"I definitely could not have believed that," he said. "The endurance part of my game has been struggling a little bit, but thankfully it's held up in the last few days. Hopefully it will hold up tomorrow as well."

The host nation awaits a home golfing champion, and Matsuyama is up for the challenge of taking on Schauffele and the chasing pack.

He was asked how the Olympic experience compares to the pursuit of a major.

"There's not much difference to it, but in the Olympics the fact is that third place is still celebrated, as well as second, so there's a nice thing waiting for you even if you get third place," Matsuyama said.

"At a major championship, only the winner will be celebrated. I'm not sure tomorrow what my motivation will be, but I'm going to focus on playing good golf.

"I played with Xander in the third and fourth day together at The Masters. I'm sure Xander will come out determined to win the gold medal, so hopefully on my end too I'm going to come out strong on the mental side."


HOW LOW CAN THEY GO?

If Schauffele and Matsuyama are both to be overtaken on Sunday, it may take a score in the low 60s to snatch away gold.

Tommy Fleetwood showed that is possible with a 64 in the third round, as the Great Britain player climbed to a share of ninth on 10 under, alongside Ireland's Shane Lowry.

His team-mate Casey sits alongside Ortiz on 12 under, tied for third, with four players sharing fifth spot: Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Colombian Sebastian Munoz, Mito Pereira of Chile and Austrian Sepp Straka.

McIlroy said:"I've got a great chance going into tomorrow. It's a bit of a packed leaderboard so all to play for.

"It's going to be brilliant. A lot of us are trying to do something that none of us have ever done before.

"There's a lot of us that are going to be going through experiences that we've not experienced."

Japan's great golf hope Hideki Matsuyama has revealed he feared he would miss the Tokyo Olympics when he tested positive for COVID-19.

The Masters champion pulled out before the second round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit on July 2, and the 29-year-old has not played competitive golf since, missing out on the Open Championship.

He has also not had a top-20 finish since landing green jacket glory at Augusta National in April, slightly dampening hopes of a home gold medallist at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, where the men's tournament begins on Thursday.

Matsuyama hopes a strong mental approach can stand him in good stead as he returns to a course that holds fond memories for the 29-year-old.

It is where he won the 2010 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, securing him a first ticket to The Masters and serving as a springboard for his professional career.

"To be able to represent Japan and play in my home country and a home Olympics, this is probably the first and last time I'll be able to do that," Matsuyama said in a news conference on Tuesday.

"Three weeks ago I got tested positive for COVID-19 and wasn't really sure I'd be able to make it to this stage here. Now I'm here and I'm very happy to be able to be here.

"I tested positive for COVID for about 10 days in duration. During that time I was unable to practise, but once I got back to Japan I started practising.

"Hopefully I'll be able to be in the best form possible for the event this week."

Matsuyama said he was "very happy" to test negative ahead of the Olympics, and the significance of the venue is not lost on him.

"In a way, Kasumigaseki has been the place and catalyst for me to progress and grow," he said. "Hopefully I can do the same this week and move on to another level. 

"Since my Masters win, I haven't had the best results so far this summer, so I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's going to be fun and I'm going to try my best to do well.

"I'm going to try to overcome any physical deficit with the mental side."

With his golf commitments, Matsuyama said he had found little time to watch fellow Japanese competitors from other sports in the Games, although he has been keeping tabs on their success in the medals table, with the hosts challenging near the top.

"Hopefully I can follow their footsteps and be in a position to win a medal as well," he said.

Joaquin Niemann and Tom Lewis are tied for the one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, where defending champion Bryson DeChambeau missed the cut.

Niemann and Lewis both carded three-under-par 69s in the second round of the PGA Tour tournament in Detroit on Friday.

Eyeing his second PGA Tour title and first since the 2019 Greenbrier Classic, Chilean golfer Niemann was bogey-free as he recorded three birdies to reach 10 under through 36 holes.

Englishman Lewis – a two-time European Tour champion but without success on the PGA circuit – was also flawless following three birdies without a dropped shot on day two.

Lewis is making his 45th career PGA Tour start. In his first 43 starts, he played the opening 36 holes in 134 or better once (134/2020 Shriners Hospital for Children Open). The 30-year-old has now done it in each of his last two starts – 134 at Travelers Championship and this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Troy Merritt (68), Chris Kirk (68) and Max Homa (65) are a shot off the pace heading into the weekend, while overnight leader Davis Thompson (73) is among a group of players tied for sixth at eight under.

Former world number one Jason Day could only manage a second-round 73 as he fell to four under, six shots behind the leading pair – a stroke better off than Patrick Reed (72) and six-time major champion Phil Mickelson (72).

US PGA Championship winner Mickelson played the final two holes in one-under to finish three under, just a shot above the cut line.

"I am tired of trying to fight to make cuts. I want to get in contention, because that's what's so much fun, like it was at the PGA, just being in contention and having a chance," Mickelson said.

DeChambeau (71) was not so fortunate as the big-hitting American's title defence came to an end after just two rounds at one under.

Meanwhile, Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama was forced to withdraw before his second round after testing positive for coronavirus.

After an absence of 112 years, golf made a grand return to the Olympics schedule at the 2016 Rio Games.

Now, four years on, another stellar cast from the men's and women's games are descending on Tokyo aiming to stand atop the podium.

While several big names once again opted out – including former world number one Dustin Johnson – amid a demanding schedule during the traditional major season, the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Nelly Korda offer plenty of star attraction.

With that in mind, Stats Perform provides an overview of those competing for golfing glory in Japan.

RAHM, BRYSON, MCILROY AND THOMAS THE HEADLINE ACTS

Justin Rose missed out on qualification, meaning there will be a new gold medal winner in the men's competition. And what an achievement it would be for Rahm to add an Olympic accolade to his name fresh off breaking his major duck with a fine U.S. Open triumph last month. McIlroy finished in a tie for seventh at Torrey Pines and, having previously been among the biggest critics of golf at the Olympics, is to make his Games debut representing Ireland aiming to add a gold medal to his four career majors. There are four male representatives from a star-studded United States cast that includes three major winners in the form of Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Colin Morikawa. DeChambeau had been well in contention to win the U.S. Open before a final-round collapse, with Morikawa finishing fourth. Xander Schauffele – the final American male in action – was tied seventh and is sure to have plenty of support given his mother, who was born in Taiwan, grew up in Japan.

KORDA OUT TO TAKE INBEE'S CROWN

Inbee Park is one of the all-time greats and the seven-time major victor is among the favourites to retain her gold medal from Rio four years ago. Ko Jin-young provides another strong South Korean hope, as do countrywomen Kim Sei-young and Kim Hyo-joo. But it is Nelly Korda who travels to Tokyo with all the momentum. The 22-year-old took the Women's US PGA Championship last month to ascend to the top of the LPGA rankings for the first time. Elder sister Jessica Korda also qualified, while their brother Sebastian is in line to represent the United States in tennis. Major winners Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson complete a strong four-woman contingent. Filipino sensation Yuka Saso, who won the U.S. Open this year, is another to watch out for in the women's competition.

MATSUYAMA, HATAOKA OUT TO MAKE MOST OF HOME ADVANTAGE

Hideki Matsuyama made history by becoming the first man from Japan to win a major tournament with his glorious triumph at the Masters back in April. Moreover, the 29-year-old has previous at the Kasumigaseki Country Club – a venue where he won the Asia-Amateur Championship in 2010. A quiet man he may be on the course, but expect fireworks from Matsuyama in Tokyo. In the women's field, Nasa Hataoka is the highest-ranked Japanese player gunning for gold. With eight professional wins to her name, Hataoka went agonisingly close to securing a maiden major when she lost out in a play-off to then-teenager Saso at the U.S. Open. Hinako Shibuno, the 2019 Women's British Open champion, missed out on selection with Mone Inami instead Japan's other female representative.

Davis Thompson tied the 18-hole scoring record at the Rocket Mortgage Classic after earning the opening-round lead.

Thompson – in his third PGA Tour tournament as a professional – carded a nine-under-par 63 to claim a two-stroke lead in Detroit, where play was suspended due to darkness on Thursday.

The 22-year-old surprisingly leads at Detroit Golf Club following a flawless first round which featured nine birdies to match the 18-hole scoring record at the event, joining Nate Lashley and J.T. Poston (both in 2019).

"Sounds good on Sunday," Thompson said afterwards, having been a collective six-over par in his six previous starts on tour (four as an amateur). "It's only Thursday. I know I've got a long way to go."

"I’ve played in a few pro events now, so you've just got to keep your emotions in check," Thompson said. "Anything can happen. I know I'm playing well, so I'm just going to have some confidence going into [Friday] and hopefully I can play another good round."

Brandon Hagy, Tom Lewis and Joaquin Niemann are two shots off the pace heading into Friday's second round, while Seamus Power and J.J. Spain are a stroke further back.

Former world number one Jason Day ended the opening day five under following his 67 as six-time major champion and US PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson posted a 69 to be level with the likes of Patrick Reed.

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama opened his tournament with a two-under-par 70.

As for defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, the big-hitting American shot an even-par 72.

Trying to successfully defend a PGA Tour title for the first time, world number six DeChambeau mixed three birdies with three bogeys.

It comes as DeChambeau and caddie Tim Tucker take some time apart.

"They have gone their separate ways for now," DeChambeau's agent Brett Falkoff told ESPN. "That doesn't mean forever, but it means they are not working together now. They met last night and decided to move on.

"It's just an accumulation of things, and it's never easy when a player and caddie split up. They just decided the best situation for now was essentially to not be together anymore."

The delay to the Tokyo Olympics has been a source of frustration for countless athletes, but perhaps none more so than the Japanese stars so desperate to succeed in their home nation.

Uncertainty and confusion surrounding the Games has sadly reigned for the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And yet, here we are in the month the action is set to begin and the show looks certain to go on.

No international spectators will be in attendance, but limited numbers of domestic fans are due to be allowed to watch the action.

So, who are the biggest names representing Japan the locals will hope to inspire to glory? Stats Perform has taken a look…

NAOMI OSAKA

There is no other place to begin than with one of the biggest names in the whole of sport, let alone tennis right now. Naomi Osaka is a superstar with a huge global following, particularly in Japan and America. Only 23 and with four grand slams to her name, there is seemingly no limit to the level she can reach. Osaka is the defending US and Australian Open champion, but withdrew after the first round of the French Open and opted not to play at Wimbledon after revealing a long-endured battle with depression. The issue came to the fore when Osaka had announced she would not take part in media conferences in Paris to protect her mental health, starting a wider conversation over how athletes are treated. 

 

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

So often a nearly man, 2021 has already been a breakthrough year for the gifted Hideki Matsuyama. There were seven top-10 finishes in major tournaments before finally the 29-year-old took top billing to win the Masters at Augusta back in April. In doing so he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament (Hinako Shibuno and Chako Higuchi have both won majors in the women's game). Olympic gold is certainly not out of the question for one of the most gifted players in golf.

KIYUNA RYO

Karate is making its Olympics debut and so is one of its greatest ever competitors in the form of Kiyuna Ryo. In 2019, Ryo won every competition he entered - including a third Asian championship - while the pandemic denied him a shot at a record fourth straight WKF world championship in June 2020. It will take a huge effort to stop Ryo, who will be 31 by the time the Games begin, standing atop the podium.

UTA ABE

The younger sibling of two-time world champion Hifumi Abe – himself off to Tokyo 2020 – judoka Uta Abe represents a serious medal hope for Japan. A two-time world champion herself in the -52kg category, she will aim to become an Olympic champion on July 25 – the same day her brother will aim to wear gold in the men's -66kg category. There is no shortage of judo talent in Japan, with Shohei Ono aiming to defend the -73kg gold he won at Rio 2016.

KENTO MOMOTA 

The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone but especially for Kento Momota. In January 2020, the badminton star was involved in a road accident that claimed the life of his driver, while he required surgery on his eye socket. A combination of the injury, the global pandemic and a positive test for coronavirus kept Momota off the court for 14 months. But the two-time world champion – who won an astounding 11 titles as recently as 2019 – will be desperate to complete a fairytale ending with gold in Tokyo.

 

DAIYA SETO

One of Japan's greatest hopes in the pool, Daiya Seto already has an Olympic medal in the form of a bronze from Rio four years ago in the 400 metre individual medley. With four gold medals in long course world championships and as many at the Asian Games, there are plenty of high hopes for Seto.

Richard Bland upstaged a star-studded field to earn a share of the U.S. Open lead at the halfway stage as defending champion Bryson DeChambeau soared up the leaderboard.

Unheralded Englishman Bland, 48, powered to the top of the summit at Torrey Pines thanks to his four-under-par 67 in San Diego, where he continues to prove patience pays off.

Alongside Russell Henley (70) for the one-stroke lead after two rounds, Bland is benefitting from perseverance, having gone almost 20 years without a European Tour title.

At the 478th attempt on the European Tour last month, Bland claimed an emotional win at the British Masters, which earned him a place in his fourth major championship.

Bland – who missed the cut at his one previous U.S. Open appearance in 2009 – dazzled on day two of this year's tournament, storming into the clubhouse lead before being joined by American Henley.

After opening with a 70, Bland holed seven birdies and three bogeys to catapult himself to the top of the standings, before Henley teed off in his second round, amid his improbable dream of clinching a major.

"I feel good about my game," said three-time PGA Tour champion Henley, whose previous best performance at a major came via an 11th-place finish at the 2017 Masters.

"I've never been in this position before in a major. Just feel like I'm going to learn something no matter what happens."

Louis Oosthuizen (71), who was the overnight co-leader along with Henley, ended day two in a tie for third position alongside Matthew Wolff (68), while Bubba Watson (67) and Jon Rahm (70) are a shot further back at three under through 36 holes.

DeChambeau boosted his hopes of back-to-back U.S. Open titles, though the big-hitting American star remains five strokes off the pace heading into the weekend.

A two-under-par 69 saw DeChambeau move to even par as he rose 47 positions into a tie for 13th alongside rival and two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka (73), Justin Thomas (69), Collin Morikawa (67), Harris English (70), Branden Grace (70), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70) and Adam Hadwin (72).

Koepka – eyeing a fifth major crown – lost ground on the leaders after mixing five bogeys and just three birdies, while Rory McIlroy followed his opening-round 70 with a 73 to be one over the card as world number one Dustin Johnson (73) ended the day two over.

US PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson emerged from the jaws of elimination, qualifying for the weekend via a two-under-par 69 after his forgettable 75 on Thursday.

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (76), Adam Scott (75), Sergio Garcia (74), Patrick Reed (73) and Jordan Spieth (69) all avoided the cut, but Justin Rose (77) was not so fortunate at 13 over.

Defending champion Jon Rahm joined Patrick Cantlay at the top of the leaderboard before the second round of the Memorial Tournament was suspended due to darkness.

The opening round was hit by storms at Muirfield Village, where most of the field managed to complete their second rounds on Friday.

Rahm – eyeing back-to-back Memorial titles – was through 13 holes when play was called for the day, the Spanish star level at eight under alongside Cantlay.

Cantlay had posted a five-under-par 67 to surge to the top of the standings in Dublin, Ohio.

The 2019 champion, Cantlay played 33 holes on Friday to be tied for the two-stroke lead through 36 holes, ahead of fellow American Scottie Scheffler (71).

Carlos Ortiz (68), Max Homa (through 14), Xander Schauffele (through 12) and Rickie Fowler (through 11) ended the day three shots off the pace at the PGA Tour event.

Overnight leader Collin Morikawa completed 12 holes but slipped down to a tie for eighth at four under, alongside the likes of Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.

Former world number one and three-time major champion Jordan Spieth recorded a five-under-par 67 to bounce back from his first-round 76 – the American improving to one under.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau also completed his round – an even-par 72 – to be seven strokes behind Rahm and Cantlay but it was a testing day.

DeChambeau was taunted by fans amid his ongoing feud with fellow star Brooks Koepka, with approximately 10 spectators ejected.

There is no love lost between DeChambeau and Koepka, particularly after footage of the latter emerged during a post-round interview at the US PGA Championship.

In a leaked viral video, four-time major champion Koepka was seen rolling his eyes at DeChambeau and cursed in frustration during the interview.

After Friday's second round, DeChambeau said: "I think it's absolutely flattering what they're doing. They can keep calling me that all day if they want to, I've got no issue with it.

"When you look at it, to most people it's they think it's a distraction, but I grew up learning how to deal with that stuff and I honestly thought it was flattering.''

On Koepka – who is not playing this week – DeChambeau said: "Look, I've got nothing against him. I've got no issues at all. If he wants to play that game, that's great. I'm going to keep trying to play my best game and when it comes down to it, when somebody's that bothered by someone else it is flattering."

Meanwhile, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy shot back-to-back 72s to be even par.

Collin Morikawa carded a six-under-par 66 to claim a one-stroke lead before bad weather halted the opening round of the Memorial Tournament.

Thunderstorms forced a weather-hit day one to be suspended at Muirfield Village, where Morikawa managed to set the early pace before play was stopped on Thursday.

Morikawa – last year's US PGA Championship winner – was almost flawless in Dublin, Ohio after holing seven birdies and just one bogey.

A run of three consecutive birdies and four in five to start his back nine sent Morikawa to the top of the leaderboard, just ahead of fellow American Adam Long.

"It was definitely the rain," Morikawa said. "The greens were soft enough and they're receptive. But you have to hit the fairway. Out here, wet rough, it's not going to help when the rough is pretty long.

Bo Hoag, Nick Taylor, Xander Schauffele and Rafa Cabrera Bello also completed their rounds and ended the day two strokes off the pace, while defending champion Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are among a group a shot further back at three under.

Reigning U.S. Open champion and 2018 Memorial Tournament winner Bryson DeChambeau – gearing up for his upcoming title defence at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego this month – was two under through three holes at the time of the suspension.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth also completed three holes – one under – when play was called off, while Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who won the PGA Tour event in 2014, did complete his round following a one-over-par 73.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy will return to finish his round early on Friday after going one over through two holes in wet conditions.

Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka both shot 70 Saturday to set up a mouth-watering final pairing at the US PGA Championship. 

At seven under par for the tournament, Mickelson holds a one-stroke lead over his countryman entering the final round at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course after saving par on 18 while Koepka bogeyed the last. 

The 50-year-old Mickelson is the fourth player aged 50 or older to lead a major after three rounds in the modern era, which began in 1934. 

The others were Tom Watson at the 2009 Open Championship, Greg Norman at the 2008 Open, and Julius Boros at the 1973 US Open -- none of whom ended up holding on for the win. 

Mickelson has been resilient this week in South Carolina, though, steadying himself Saturday after going bogey-double bogey on 12 and 13 to make par on the final five holes. 

While Mickelson's resurgence has excited the fans, Koepka remains a model of consistency at the PGA.

He has finished at least tied for fourth in 12 of the last 13 rounds at the major, and he could become the first player to win the same major three times in a four-year stretch since Watson won the Open in 1980, 1982 and 1983.

Mickelson will be shooting for his sixth major title and first since the 2013 Open, while Koepka seeks his fifth. 

Louis Oosthuizen, who shared the lead with Mickelson entering play Saturday, managed just three birdies on the day on the way to an even-par 72 that left him five under for the tournament. 

American Kevin Streelman (70) is at four under, while Oosthuizen's South African countrymen Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout are at three under after even-par rounds of their own. 

Bryson DeChambeau (71) was unable to gain ground on the leaders and enters Sunday five back of Mickelson along with Gary Woodland (72) and Joaquin Niemann (71). 

Jordan Spieth matched Billy Horschel for the low round of the day with a 68, and he sits at even par for the tournament along with Rickie Fowler (69) and Keegan Bradley (72).

Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama fell from contention with a 76, putting him at one over with the likes of Shane Lowry (73), Padraig Harrington (73) and Ian Poulter (73). 

Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen topped a leaderboard filled with major winners at the US PGA Championship, setting up a fascinating weekend at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. 

Mickelson started early and roared to the finish, carding five birdies on the back nine on the way to a 69 that left him at five under par for the tournament before Oosthuizen shot 68 in the afternoon for a share of the overall lead. 

Two-time US PGA winner Brooks Koepka (71) was one stroke back after recording a pair of eagles on Friday, followed by 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (68) at three under. 

Oosthuizen's fellow South Africans Branden Grace (71) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70) also were two back of the leaders. 

First-round leader Corey Conners (75) and 2019 U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland (72) were at two under, with reigning U.S. open champion Bryson DeChambeau (71) dropping back to one under after a bogey on 18. 

Players battled windy conditions throughout the day and had an especially difficult time with the last two holes.

Oosthuizen lost his chance to stand alone atop the leaderboard with a bogey on 18 that ensured no one would post a bogey-free round on the first two days of competition, while Grace dropped three strokes on 17 and 18 to mar an otherwise stellar round.

Rory McIlroy (72) saw a move for contention disintegrate with bogeys on the final three holes that left him eight back of the leaders entering Saturday, and Jordan Spieth (75) was in the same spot after bogeys at 17 and 18.

The four-time major champion Koepka had perhaps the most erratic day of any contender, carding just one birdie to go with his eagles at the seventh and 11th and four bogeys. 

Among the notables missing the five-over cut line by one stroke were Dustin Johnson (74), Sergio Garcia (73), Adam Scott (72) and Justin Thomas.

Former major winners also missing out on the weekend include Zach Johnson (78), Jason Dufner (81), Martin Kaymer (77), Rich Beem (77), Charl Schwartzel (79) and John Daly (86). 

The 2009 US PGA Championship winner, Y.E. Yang, was disqualified after signing an incorrect scorecard but would have missed the cut anyway. 

Corey Conners withstood hammering winds to claim a two-stroke lead following the opening round at the US PGA Championship as Brooks Koepka impressed but Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson struggled.

Prior to Thursday's first round in South Carolina, Conners' best position after any round of a major was equal sixth through 54 holes at this year's Masters at Augusta.

Conners bettered that at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, where the Canadian defied the wind to set the early pace with a five-under-par 67.

Without a victory since his solitary PGA Tour triumph at the 2019 Texas Open, Conners was almost flawless in gusty conditions, holing six birdies with just one bogey.

Conners' lead marks his third career 18-hole lead/co-lead on the PGA Tour (0-for-two to date) and first at a major. Earlier this season, the 29-year-old was tied for the first-round lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished third – his best result of the season.

Koepka ended day one in a share of second position alongside Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland, Aaron Wise, Sam Horsfield and Cam Davis.

Koepka has been plagued by injuries since winning back-to-back PGA Championships in 2019 and a fourth major title in three years – the American star underwent knee surgery in March before missing the cut at last month's Masters.

But Koepka impressed on Thursday, overcoming a slow start to shoot a three-under-par 69.

Koepka double-bogeyed his opening hole on the back nine, however, the four-time major champion only dropped one shot after that as he tallied six birdies.

He has opened the PGA Championship with a score in the 60s in each of the last six years, the longest such streak at any major in the modern era (since 1934), eclipsing Jack Nicklaus (five – 1972-1976 Masters).

Defending champion Collin Morikawa is a stroke further back alongside the likes of five-time major winner Phil Mickelson.

Big-hitting American and reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau signed for an even-par 72 at the close of the first round, level with Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, while Masters holder Hideki Matsuyama, former world number one Jordan Spieth – eyeing a career Grand Slam – and Xander Schauffele shot 73s.

Jason Day and Patrick Reed were also further down the leaderboard as two-time PGA Championship winner McIlroy and world number one Johnson were powerless in the wind.

McIlroy – seeking a first major trophy since 2014 – recorded a three-over-par 75, which included six bogeys and just three birdies.

Justin Thomas also went three over for the day, while Johnson finished with two double-bogeys and a bogey in a forgettable four-over-par 76 display.

Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and defending champion Collin Morikawa will tee off within the first two hours of the US PGA Championship, which got underway on Thursday at 07:00 local time.

Patrick Rada, Cameron Triangle, Adam Long were the first three players to tee off on Thursday at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.

Matt Jones highlighted the second group, which teed off 11 minutes later. The Australian won this year's Honda Championship – the same competition which Rory McIlory won before dominating on this course in the PGA Championship in 2012.

McIlroy, who comes into the tournament on the back of a one-stroke victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, is in the hunt for a fifth major title.

His last win in the PGA Championship, in 2014, is his most recent of those major victories, and the Northern Irishman, currently ranked at seventh in the world, is one of the favourites.

McIlroy's average drive of 318 yards across the season so far puts him, in theory, in good stead to handle the Ocean Course, which at 7,878 yards, is the longest major track.

He is set to tee off at 08:33 local time from the first, and is paired with fellow US PGA champions Justin Thomas (2017) and Brooks Koepka (2018, 2019).

Shortly after that trio start, another big hitter in the form of 2020 US Open champion DeChambeau takes to the field. He averages 322 yards per drive this season, topping the PGA tour, though his accuracy is down at 172nd out of 215 players. That accuracy is however better than McIlroy, who ranks at 175th.

Teeing off alongside De Chambeau is Morikawa, who became the third-youngest player to win the major since it became a stroke-play event in 1958 – after McIlroy and the legendary Jack Nicklaus – when he triumphed in California last year.

The Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama, completes a fearsome trio.

Three more previous US PGA champions will head out together later in the day, with Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Padraig Harrington taking to the course at 13:14 in South Carolina.

They will be followed from the first by Tommy Fleetwood, world number three Jon Rahm and Patrick Reed, at approximately 13:25.

Jordan Spieth heads into the major as the only player in the field capable of completing a career grand slam this week. He starts at 13:58. 

Xander Schauffele is the first top-five player due out at 08:22, while world number on Dustin Johnson is one of the later starters.

One player who will not be featuring is Francesco Molinari, who withdrew on Thursday due to a back injury.

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