Chiba (Japan), April 23 (IANS) Indian Shiv Kapur remained strongly in contention to end his 11-year title drought on the Asian Tour when he grabbed the third-round lead with a two-under 69 at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship here on Saturday.
Shiv parred 14 straight holes before hitting back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16the to seize the outright lead with a nine-under 204 total 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 South 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, Shiv 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 Shiv, who 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.
He 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.
Among other Indians in the fray, Jeev Milkha Singh scored 69 to be tied 42nd on even-par 213 total.
Rahil Gangjee carded two-over 73 to take his three-day total to two-over 215 and got a share of the 62nd position.