Friday February 23, 2024

Hoshino and Lee set up Australian Open showdown

December 03, 2023

SYDNEY: Japan´s Rikuya Hoshino fired a flawless 65 Saturday for a share of the lead with Min Woo Lee at the Australian Open, while South Africa´s Ashleigh Buhai moved into prime position to defend her women´s title.

Six-time Japan Tour winner Hoshino hit four birdies and an eagle to reel in Australian overnight leader Lee in his bid for a maiden DP World Tour win.

Lee began the day in Sydney with a three-stroke lead from Scotland´s Connor Syme and American Patrick Rodgers, but struggled with his putter to card a one-under-par 70, holing a pressure birdie at the last.

Japans Rikuya Hoshino has a share of the lead at the Australian Open. —AFP File
Japan's Rikuya Hoshino has a share of the lead at the Australian Open. —AFP File

It set up a re-run of last week´s Australian PGA Championship in Brisbane, when Lee took a three-shot lead over playing partner Hoshino into the final day and hung on to win his third DP World Tour title.

“It´s one of those days and hopefully I can get it going tomorrow,” said Lee. “Today was a bit of a grind, I didn´t feel like I had it all there, but still did some good stuff.”

Lee opened with a birdie and it looked like he might run away with the lead.

But he found the water at the third to card a double-bogey and another bogey at the 10th coupled with Hoshino´s eagle at the 14th put them level at 12-under-par for the tournament.

A birdie for Hoshino at the 18th edged him in front before Lee responded.

“This is the first time I´ve come to Australia and I am enjoying the atmosphere and the tournament. So that´s why I think I´m playing well,” said Hoshino.

“I´m going to use many experiences winning in Japan, and my goal this year is to win a DP World Tour event, so I´m going to try my best.”

England´s Alex Fitzpatrick -- the younger brother of 2022 US Open Champion Matt Fitzpatrick -- surged into contention with a 66 to be one behind them, alongside Rodgers.

The mixed Australian Open involves men and women teeing off in alternating groups on the same courses.

The Jack Nicklaus-designed Australian Golf Club is the main venue across all four days, while the nearby Lakes Golf Club co-hosted play during the first two rounds.