SHANGHAI – Four players were tied for the lead on Saturday after the third round of the 11th Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, raising prospects of an exciting finish on the final day.
Japan’s Ren Yonezawa (73) missed a par putt on the 18th hole from less than four feet to fall back to eight-under-par 208, where he was joined by compatriot Yuto Katsuragawa (69), Chinese Taipei, China’s Yung-Hua Liu (69) and overnight leader Blake Windred of Australia (74). It marked the first tie for the lead after 54 holes in the history of the championship.
Two players finished in joint fifth place at seven under par – the defending champion Takumi Kanaya of Japan (68) and Korea’s Won Jun Lee (66) – while 2017 champion Yuxin Lin of China (71) was tied for seventh place at six under.
The 20-year-old Yonezawa, who attends the same Tohoku Fukushi University in Tokyo as Kanaya and two-time AAC champion Hideki Matsuyama, has finished inside the top four in six of his last eight starts. He has already won three times this year and is looking to add to that tally tomorrow.
“Over the past two years, I have worked very hard on my long game and that is one of the main reasons I have been playing so well. But then, I missed a few short putts today,” said Yonezawa, who finished runner-up at the Asia-Pacific Open Diamond Cup, a professional event on the Japan Golf Tour in May this year.
“I was a bit nervous on the first two shots on the 18th hole (a par 5), and just wanted to be more aggressive with my third shot so that I didn’t end up in the water guarding the front of the green. Obviously, I went too far past the flag and it is a difficult downhill putt from there.
“But I am in a good position. I just need to work on my short-range putting today and I think I should be ready for the battle tomorrow.”
On the other hand, Windred, who is ranked No. 11 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), sank a five-foot putt for birdie on the last to remain on top of the leader board for a third straight day.
The 21-year-old from Newcastle held the advantage until he ran into trouble on the par-5 eighth hole where he snap-hooked his tee shot into the forest to make bogey. He then made four bogeys and one birdie over the next eight holes before closing with a crucial birdie.
“What I can take away from today is that it wasn’t my best performance at all, but I was quite happy with my attitude on the golf course and when I rolled that birdie putt in on the last,” said Windred, who opened with a 63, setting a record for lowest opening round and matching the low-18 record in the history of the championship.
“On the last tee, I was seven under and I didn’t feel great mentally, but I told myself that there’s another day and another opportunity to shoot a low score and take home the trophy. That kind of pumped me up a little bit, and then I was in the right space to make a birdie on the last.”
Japan’s Katsuragawa, ranked 237th in the WAGR, surged up the leader board with five consecutive birdies from the third hole onwards, but he mixed three birdies and five bogeys over the last 11 holes for his 69.
Liu was solid throughout the round, making just one bogey on the difficult par-4 ninth hole in his 69. The WAGR No. 457, coming off two straight top-five finishes in tournaments back home, made three birdies in his first seven holes and negotiated the demanding back nine of Sheshan International with another birdie on the par-5 14th hole.
In total, 15 players are with five strokes of the lead heading into Sunday’s final round, which will begin off the first and 10th tees at Sheshan International at 6:30 a.m.