Photo - Asian Tour
ACE SENDS ISHIKAWA SOARING IN PANASONIC OPEN
Kobe: Japanese teenage superstar Ryo Ishikawa shot a hole-in-one en route to a second round one-under-par 70 to lie one shot behind leader Ryuchi Oda at the Asia Pacific Panasonic Open on Saturday.
The 19-year-old produced the magical shot with a seven iron at the par three 187-yard sixth, his 15th hole of the day, at the Rokko Kokusai Golf Club’s East course to give himself a chance of winning the ¥150,000,000 (approximately US1.7 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
Oda, who missed his last two cuts and bidding for his second victory in Japan, bogeyed the last hole for a 70 to lead on four-under-par 138, with the final round to play on Sunday.
Late blemishes left Korea’s standout Noh Seung-yul, who leads the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, two shots off the pace as he battled to a 70 for tied fourth place with amongst others, title holder Daisuke Maruyama, Shingo Katayama, Australia’s Scott Hend and S.K. Ho of Korea.
The 33-year-old Oda, who shot three birdies against two bogeys, said: “I had a good lesson from my coach recently and I feel comfortable with my swing. I’m trying to not force extra power on the upper body and it seems to be working,” said Oda.
Buffeting winds made life difficult for the field, with joint overnight leader Gaganjeet Bhullar of India amongst those who were blown off course. The 21-year-old Bhullar, a two-time winner in Asia, shot a 76 to fall five off the pace with one round to play.
Bad weather on Thursday forced organisers to reduce the Panasonic Open to a 54-hole affair.
The story of the day belonged to the dashing Ishikawa. After shooting nine straight pars, he endured a roller-coaster homeward nine with the ace, two birdies and three bogeys.
“Tough day, tougher than yesterday,” said Ishikawa, who is nicknamed the “Bashful Prince.” “The hole in one is the second in my career but the first time in a tournament. This is something to treasure.
“It was a good shot into the wind which was blowing right to left. The shot was following the wind and it pitched one meter and then rolled in,” added Ishikawa, who earned ¥1 million (approximately US$12,000) for his ace.
He got his wish of forcing his way into the final group tomorrow as he chases a ninth Japan Tour victory. “I’m going to try to play three or four under tomorrow. It’ll be tough conditions again and the first two holes are very tough holes, so if I can keep par on those holes, it will be very good,” said Ishikawa.
Noh, 19, was kicking himself after dropping three shots late in his round after misjudging the winds on the sixth and eighth holes. “I just couldn’t get the wind right and dropped three shots there,” said Noh, who was four under through 13 holes with an eagle and two birdies.
He hit it out of bounds at the par three sixth hole and then drove into trouble on the eighth. However, the teen titan was confident of challenging for his second victory of the season.
“The game is feeling better than yesterday but the score is the same. I’m a few shots behind but it’s not a problem. The game feels better and I’ve got my confidence back. I can’t afford to drop any bogeys tomorrow,” said Noh, winner of the Maybank Malaysian Open in March.
Australia’s Marcus Fraser, trying to keep up with Noh in the merit race where he is ranked second, shot a 73 to lie one behind the Korean. “I just didn’t play well although I only missed one fairway. It was pretty tricky with the winds which came up and down. It was frustrating to make some ordinary mistakes.”
Bhullar, who won the season-opening Asian Tour International in Bangkok, was disappointed he fell off the pace. “Conditions were quite tough. I didn’t hit the ball as good as yesterday and the iron play wasn’t up to the mark,” said the young Indian.
The cut was set at five-over-par 147.