Hoshino birdies final hole to maintain one-shot lead

Rikuya Hoshino. Pic by JGTO

April 29: Rikuya Hoshino brilliantly birdied the final hole to preserve a one-shot lead heading into the final round of The Crowns as he stayed on course to win his seventh JGTO title.

The 26-year-old, whose last victory came at the Heiwa PGM Championship in October last year, mixed five birdies with a lone bogey on his way to a four-under-par 66, taking him to 11-under-par 199 and one ahead of Hiroshi Iwata, the 2021 champion.

Iwata recovered strongly from a double bogey on the third by responding with six birdies, including three consecutive gains from No. 10-No. 12 and at the last hole, to stay within striking distance for his fifth Tour win.

Taiga Semikawa, already a three-time winner at 22, gives himself a shot at winning his second title of the season after posting a 67 to share the third spot with Mikumu Horikawa at four shots off the pace on seven-under-par 203.

Massaya Hattori was a stroke further back in outright fifth after signing for a 70, while South African Jbe Kruger had 68 to emerge as the best-placed international player on 206.

With a slim one-shot advantage overnight, Hoshino did well to keep himself atop the leaderboard throughout the day despite facing pressure from the in-form Iwata, who came in fourth at the ISPS HANDA Championship last week.

Hoshino birdied the first, seventh and eighth holes to trade with his only blemish on the par-three fourth for two-under 33 before crossing over to finish in style with further gains on 12 and 18.

“I was hoping to shoot maybe three or four-under, so I think it’s great that I managed to accomplish that,” said Hoshino.

“The wind was really strong and made things very difficult for us, especially in the first half of the day. Thankfully, I was able to get good momentum by getting a birdie on the par-three seventh. ”

“Iwata was charging hard in the second half, and so did Semikawa as they both kept making birdies to the point that I felt I wasn’t making enough!

“I’m relishing the final battle with them again, the one who can overcome the unpredictable weather, the greens and bunker condition will come up tops.”

Leading third round scores:
199: Rikuya Hoshino 67-66-66;
200: Hiroshi Iwata 67-67-66;
203: Taiga Semikawa 70-66-67, Mikumu Horikawa 66-68-69;
204: Massaya Hattori 67-67-70;
205: Shugo Imahira 71-68-66, Ryo Ishikawa 69-69-67, Mikiya Akutsu 67-69-69, Jinichiro Kozuma 70-66-69, Naoyuki Kaneda 65-69-71;
206: Yuto Katsuragawa 73-69-64, Jbe Kruger 71-67-68.

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