1 of 3 | Xander Schauffele of the United States surged to the top of the leaderboard on Friday with an Olympic record-tying round of 63 on Friday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE
July 30 (UPI) -- American golfer Xander Schauffele shot a spectacular 8-under par 63 on Friday to climb to the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes of Olympic golf.
Schauffele's day was highlighted by a pair of eagles as he finished with a combined 11-under on the second day of men's golf at Kasumigaseki Golf Club, located some 25 miles northwest of Tokyo.
The world No. 5 finished his round with a long birdie putt on the 18th hole to move past Mexico's Carlos Ortiz, who sits in second place overall with a combined 10-under.
Ortiz shot a 4-under 67 on the day and has been one of the most consistent players across the first two rounds of Olympic competition, propelled by superb putting.
Play was interrupted twice by weather warnings on a hot and humid day, with a two-hour suspension in the afternoon and then a cancellation at 5:20 p.m., as 16 players in the field of 60 had yet to finish their rounds.
Schauffele sank his last putt just moments ahead of the warning horn that sounded to clear golfers off of the course.
"It's not often you have a double delay in a round, " Schauffele told NBC's Steve Sands. "[I was] happy to finish."
The 27-year-old Schauffele comes into these Olympics with a pair of strong personal connections. His maternal grandparents live in Tokyo, but are unable to watch him play in person due to pandemic-driven restrictions on spectators at the Games. Schauffele's father, Stefan, is his swing coach and was an Olympic hopeful in the decathlon some 40 years ago for Germany before a serious car accident derailed his athletic career.
"My dad has been my only swing coach my entire life," Schauffele tweeted on Friday morning. "Given his Olympic aspirations were cut short, sharing this moment with him this week here in Tokyo is truly something special."
The American's round of 63 tied an Olympic record set by Marcus Frasier of Australia and Matt Kuchar of the United States at Rio 2016, where golf made its return to the Games after 112 years.
Austria's Sepp Straka matched that feat on Thursday with his own round of 63 but came back down to earth by shooting even-par on Friday. Still, Straka remains near the top of the leaderboard, tied for third with a surging Mito Pereira of Chile and Alex Noren of Sweden, both of whom finished the day at a combined 8-under.
Joining that group at 8-under was local favorite Hideki Matsuyama, the Japanese sensation who is looking to add a gold medal to the green jacket he won at the 2021 Master's. Matsuyama shot a 6-under through 16 holes on Friday, before his day was interrupted by the weather cancellation.
Also zooming up the leaderboard was Rory McIlroy, competing for Ireland, who fired a 5-under 66 on the day to finish at 7-under par halfway through the 72-hole event.
McIlroy was buoyed by a strong stretch between the 6th and 8th holes, where he finished with two birdies and an eagle. However, he also had two bogeys on the day, including on the 18th hole.
"It was a good run today and obviously I'm in a nice position going into the weekend," McIlroy said.
The 32-year-old native of Northern Island, currently ranked No.13 in the world, said that playing on an unfamiliar course was not necessarily a disadvantage.
"Sometimes it's better to not know it as well," McIlroy said. "I had one practice run on Wednesday and just got straight into the tournament and sometimes that's not a bad thing."
McIlroy was joined by his Olympic teammate, Irish golfer Shane Lowry, who shot 6-under on the day to also finish at a combined 7-under.
"I rolled in a couple of putts early today and that give me a bit of momentum," Lowry said. "If I find more fairways over the weekend, I feel like I can really do something."
Schauffele's teammates on the American contingent finished farther down the pack. World No. 3 Collin Morikawa, who won the British Open earlier this month, and teammate Paul Reed remain in the hunt, each with a combined 3-under through 36 holes.
Justin Thomas, the world No. 4, has struggled to find consistency over the first two days and sat at a combined 1-under par through 17 holes before play was suspended for the day.