CHITOSE, HOKKAIDO – Ryo Ishikawa continued his surge up the leaderboard of the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational on Saturday, improving from 27th to a tie for 10th with a 6-under 66 that left him three strokes off the pace heading into the final round.
Ishikawa shot six birdies in a bogey-free round to close in on overnight co-leader Lee Kyoung Hoon, who fired a 70, and fellow South Korean Kim Hyung Sung, who carded a 68. Yasuharu Imano, who had shared the second-round lead with Lee, scored even par to fall two strokes off the pace at the 7,127-yard, par-72 North Country Golf Club in Hokkaido.
One stroke back of Kim and Lee were a pack of five — Komei Oda, Toru Suzuki, Taichi Teshima, South Korea’s Ryu Hyun Woo and China’s Liang Wenchong.
Ishikawa started the tournament with a 2-over-74, but shot into contention after a second-round 67 that included four birdies and an eagle.
“At last things are coming together,” said Ishikawa. “My address was wobbling, but it is now back to normal.”
Taking advantage of the calm conditions in the morning, Ishikawa birdied four of the first six holes. On the par-4 first, he hit his approach shot from 130 yards to within four feet of the pin before draining the easy birdie putt to get off to a roaring start.
Despite the difficult pin locations on the back nine, he picked up another two strokes on the 13th and 18th, both par-5s.
Three times during the round, the sound of camera shutters distracted him as Ishikawa was poised to swing. But each time, he showed little anger, calmly putting his club back in the bag and drinking some water while he regained his concentration.
“On the final day, I want to play so that when I look at the leaderboard, I’ll see my own name moving up higher and higher.”
Although Lee clung to a share of the lead, he was a frustrated man after his four-birdie, two-bogey day.
“My putts just wouldn’t fall today,” said the 20-year-old, who is looking for his first title in Japan. “It was killing me. I missed five birdies from 1½ to 2 meters. Whether I tried too hard reading them or was thinking too much, I don’t know.”