Yuta Ikeda enjoys narrow lead, Bhullar slips to T39

Yuta Ikeda played inspired golf on Saturday to post five under 66, moving to 12-under through 54 holes. Gaganjeet Bhullar is lying in T39 at 1-over

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Yuta Ikeda in the Diamond Cup

Asian Tour Release – 22 September 2018: Japanese star Yuta Ikeda put himself in contention for a 20th career victory after shooting a third round five-under-par 66 at the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup on Saturday. Indian golfers had a forgettable day – Gaganjeet Bhullar (75), Ajeetesh Sandhu (74) and Rahil Gangjee (73) slipped down the order on Saturday, ending at one-over, two-over and three-over respectively.

Bhullar is lying in T39 after shooting four over on Saturday. He has scores of 67-72-75. Sandhu added a 74 to his earlier scores of 69 and 72. Gangjee was marginally better than his 75 on Friday, but a 73 today left him in T51, with Sandhu at T46.

Ikeda, the world number 98th, has won every year since 2009 and is now in a position to secure his first title in 2018 after totalling 12-under-par 201 at the Musashi Country Club, Sasai Course.

“If I win tomorrow, it will be number 20 but I would like to play without thinking about it. I do not want to put too much pressure on myself. I’m obviously very satisfied with my score and performance so far,” said Ikeda.

“I just kept giving myself good opportunities and went on to play the next hole without putting too much give myself expectations.”

He will have to fend off the challenge from Korean rising star Yikeun Chang, who eagled the 17th hole from 12 feet to trail by a single shot at the JP¥150 million (approximately US$1.35 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO).

Overnight leader Hiroshi Iwata slipped to a share of third place despite recording a hole-in-one on the par-three ninth hole. He returned with a 71 to tie with Tour rookie Kurt Kitayama (68) on matching 205s, four shots back of the leader.

Ranked 42nd on the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings, the 32-year-old Ikeda opened with a birdie before surging ahead with four straight birdies from the 12th hole.

Ikeda, who was unbeaten at the EurAsia Cup earlier this year, took full advantage of his sharp approach shots, missing only one green-in-regulation.

Chang, the 2016 Asian Tour Qualifying School winner, put in a resolute performance under the watchful eye of his father, whose putting tip earlier in the week has given him an extra spring in his step.

Did you know?

  • Ikeda produced his first bogey-free round in 54 holes. He has won 19 times in Japan, one of which was a co-sanctioned event with the Asian Tour in 2016.
  • His iron play has been his strongest part of his game as he has missed only nine greens-in-regulation so far this week.
  • Ikeda was ranked 37th at the end of the 2017 season after winning three times on the JGTO.
  • He was one of the star performers for Team Asia against Team Europe in the biennial EurAsia Cup. Despite Team Asia’s defeat, Ikeda was unbeaten and helped his team secure three points.
  • Chang is searching for his first victory on the Asian Tour. His best result so far this year is a tied second place at The 37th GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship on home soil.
  • He won his National Open last year and one more tournament on home soil. He earned an Asian Tour card after winning the 2016 Asian Tour Qualifying School.
  • Kitayama eagled the 17th hole from six feet which put him in contention for a first Asian Tour title.
  • He is playing competitively for the first time in Japan. His parents are Japanese but he was born in the United States. He occasionally visits family in Japan but does not speak the language.
  • Former PGA Tour player and overnight leader Iwata aced the 207-yard par-three ninth hole. It was the week’s first hole-in-one.

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