Chiba, Japan: Shiv Kapur of India was rewarded for his patience when he grabbed the third round lead with a two-under-par 69 at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship on Saturday.
Kapur parred 14 straight holes before hitting back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to seize the outright lead on nine-under-par 204 at the 150 million Yen (approximately US$1.27 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
Overnight leader Kodai Ichihara of Japan, chasing for a first career win, posted a 71 to trail by one-shot while a host of proven champions including Marcus Fraser of Australia and K.T. Kim of Korea are two shots back at the Chiba Country Club, Umesato course.
Fraser, the current Order of Merit leader, Kim, who won last week, Yuta Ikeda of Japan, Hung Chien-yao of Chinese Taipei, Sanghee Lee of Korea and Thailand’s Thanyakon Khrongpha are tied in third place on 206s.
After making a stretch of pars including a huge 40-feet putt on the eighth hole, Kapur stayed cool under pressure to give himself a fighting chance to end an 11-year title drought on the Asian Tour.
“It is a great feeling to lead in a tournament. At the start of the day, the goal was to keep doing what I’ve been doing. It was a battle of patience for me because the putts didn’t fall,” said Kapur, who recently tied the knot on April 3.
“I had a 40 feet par save on the eighth hole. That was a bonus and it kept my head in it so to speak. That hole seems to have troubled me the whole week but I got one back today and steadied ship. From there I played steady golf,” he explained.
Kapur hopes to keep a level head in the final round as he aims to become the third Indian after Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa to win in Japan.
“It is never easy to win a tournament. You have to go out and play good golf. You can’t play average golf and win. Whether it is 10 or 15 guys in contention I have to go out there and play good golf,” said Kapur.
Ichihara struggled with his ball striking and was disappointed not to build on his overnight lead as he returned with two birdies against as many bogeys.
“I was just trying to focus on my own game because I wasn’t playing that well. I need to practice on my ball striking. I’m not concerned about other people, I just need to improve on my game,” said the 33-year-old Ichihara.
Fraser, who won in Malaysia in February to top the Asian Tour Merit rankings, fought back from a poor start where he was two-over after eight holes to return with four birdies and one eagle for a 67.
“I was frustrated and a bit disappointed with how I started. My game was there and to start like that wasn’t nice. It was frustrating more than anything but things just clicked and I made a few putts. I played great at the end and that’s nice especially when you are trying to get into contention,” said Fraser.
The highly rated Thanyakon enjoyed a hot putting streak, needing only nine putts in the first nine holes highlighted by five birdies. He marked his card with another birdie on 14 to charge into contention for a first Asian Tour title.
“I was very lucky because I had nine putts on the front nine and chipped in from the bunker on the eighth hole. My only mistake was when I hit a bad drive on the first hole to finish with a bogey. Overall I’m very confident with my game,” said the 25-year-old Thanyakon.
Scores after round 3 of the Panasonic Open Golf Championship being played at the par 71, 7130 Yards Chiba CC course (am - denotes amateur):
204 - Shiv KAPUR (IND) 68-67-69.
205 - Kodai ICHIHARA (JPN) 69-65-71.
206 - Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) 72-68-66, Yuta IKEDA (JPN) 67-73-66, Sanghee LEE (KOR) 73-66-67, Marcus FRASER (AUS) 71-68-67, K.T. KIM (KOR) 69-69-68, HUNG Chien-yao (TPE) 70-67-69.
208 - Hidemasa HOSHINO (JPN) 67-74-67, Michio MATSUMURA (JPN) 71-69-68, Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 71-68-69, Toshinori MUTO (JPN) 71-67-70.
209 - Shintaro KOBAYASHI (JPN) 72-71-66, Mingyu CHO (KOR) 71-70-68, Shugo IMAHIRA (JPN) 69-71-69, Hyungsung KIM (KOR) 70-70-69, Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 73-67-69, Tetsuji HIRATSUKA (JPN) 71-69-69, Ryutaro NAGANO (JPN) 65-73-71.
210 - Yoshitaka TAKEYA (JPN) 75-68-67, Sam BRAZEL (AUS) 73-69-68, Kiyoshi MIYAZATO (JPN) 70-70-70, Hosung CHOI (KOR) 71-69-70, Kazuhiro YAMASHITA (JPN) 68-72-70, Azuma YANO (JPN) 67-69-74.