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4 storylines to follow ahead of final round of the Olympics

Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile / Getty

Moving day at Kasumigaseki Country Club did not disappoint.

After multiple weather delays and a lack of star power in the mix caused a sluggish start to the men's golf competition, the cream rose to the top Saturday in Tokyo to flip the script.

World No. 5 Xander Schauffele birdied his final hole to shoot 68 and hold a one-shot edge over Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who is looking to win a green jacket and gold medal in the same year.

Great Britain's Paul Casey posted 66 to share third with Mexico's Carlos Ortiz. One stroke behind them is Rory McIlroy, who fired 67 in Round 3 to get within three shots of the lead.

It's safe to say the final round - which starts Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET and finishes early Sunday morning - has quickly become appointment viewing for golf fans in North America.

Here are four storylines to follow during the deciding round:

For the family


Schauffele's participation in the Tokyo Summer Games means much more to him than simply representing the United States.

For him, it's about family.

Schauffele's living out the lifelong dream of his dad, Stefan, who was a world-class German decathlete destined for the Olympics but had his dreams broken after a drunk driver hit him in 1986.

The often reserved Schauffele has shared some touching tweets earlier this week about his father, who is also the only swing coach he's ever had.

The fact that his mother, who is of Taiwanese descent, was raised in Japan also adds to Schauffele's meaningful Olympic experience.

A gold medal would not only mark the most prestigious moment of the 27-year-old's career, but it would also be a very special victory for his family.

Rory's comin'

When McIlroy starts making noise, the golf world takes notice.

The Northern Irishman, who choose to represent Ireland at the Olympics, was never completely sold on the idea of competing in the Japanese capital. After skipping the 2016 Rio Games and in the lead-up to this year's event, he repeatedly commented that he never dreamed of being an Olympian, so his participation in Tokyo was never a sure thing.

However, McIlroy's perspective has since changed.

"I've been proven wrong," McIlroy said about his Olympic skepticism, according to Golf Channel's Brentley Romine.

Now he finds himself only three shots off the lead with a great shot at a podium and even the gold medal. Everyone knows McIlroy possesses all the firepower in the world to overcome such a deficit, so it will be exciting to see if he can mount a charge and go from Olympic skeptic to gold medal winner.

Battle for the podium


The Olympics are the only golf tournament where the battle for third is nearly as exciting as the one for first. Sure, there is a ton of money at stake during a regular PGA TOUR event and whoever finishes third walks away with a healthy payday, but the final round will be the only time a bronze medal will feel like a victory for one deserving golfer.

There are 14 players at or within four shots of third place heading into the final round - McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, and Shane Lowry among them. All these golfers are one great round away from claiming an Olympic medal - something so few athletes ever accomplish.

And for players such as Ortiz, Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, Chile's Mito Pereria, and Austria's Sepp Straka, a medal would be one of the best achievements of their careers, especially when you consider none of them hail from countries that are known for producing golfers.

Legendary status


Finally, with one round left to play, Matsuyama's attempt to win the gold in his home country is easily the most fascinating storyline to follow.

The 29-year-old finds himself trailing leader Schauffele - who he defeated to win at Augusta National in April - by one shot with a great opportunity to become a Japanese sporting legend.

Perhaps he already reached that status earlier this year when he became Japan's first male golfer to win a major championship at the Masters. But if Matsuyama can claim a gold medal in Toyko to add to his green jacket and complete the green-and-gold slam - that would be iconic stuff.

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