Hero World Challenge: Matsuyama establishes lead

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama will take a seven-shot advantage over American Dustin Johnson and Swede Henrik Stenson with an overall score of 19-under-197 going into the final 18 holes at the Albany Golf Course on Sunday.

Hideki Matsuyama..."I just have to keep my head down, keep grinding and do the best I can."   -  AP

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who reprised his opening day score of 65 to be at 19-under-197 after third round play, will take a seven-shot advantage over American Dustin Johnson and Swede Henrik Stenson going into the final 18 holes at the Albany Golf Course here on Sunday.

The World No. 6, with an enviable record of three wins and a second place finish in his last four stroke-play starts, played with Zen-like concentration and remarkable consistency to match the score set by Bubba Watson at this stage last year.

In addition to the seven birdies that dotted his scorecard, Matsuyama’s shot of the day came in the seventh. After laying up with a nice tee short on the par-4 hole, he used his wedge to one-hop into the cup for an eagle.

Given the way the he has acquitted himself so far, the 24-year-old, barring an improbable meltdown, should face no hitch in lifting the trophy come Sunday afternoon. But the Japanese was circumspect, saying, “I really can’t think about the lead because everyone in the field can shoot 8, 9 under. I just have to keep my head down, keep grinding and do the best I can.”

Meanwhile, for the ‘comeback’ man at the event hosted by him, it turned out be an >ordinary day at the end after a great start. Tiger Woods rattled off three birdies to begin with and then produced a great 40-yard shot from the greenside bunker for birdie on the fifth hole. He dropped a shot immediately but made amends in the seventh before turning in with a 32 in the front nine.

The back nine was more punishing for the five-time champion, with bogeys on the 13th and 14th and a double bogey on the final hole offsetting gains in the 11th and 17th.

A score of 70 left the crowd favourite in 10th place, 11 shots adrift of the young Asian, who was all respect for him. “I don’t care how many strokes I’m leading over him, I still worry about him, fear him and I’m just going to have to try my best tomorrow.”

The scores (after 54 holes, USA unless mentioned):

197: Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn, 65-67-65); 204: Henrik Stenson (Swe, 67-61-66), Dustin Johnson (66-66-72); 205: Brandt Snedeker (72-64-69), Matt Kuchar (67-67-71); 206: Rickie Fowler (68-70-68); 207: Jordan Spieth (68-69-70), J.B. Holmes (64-73-70), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA, 67-67-73); 208: Tiger Woods (73-65-70); 210: Jimmy Walker (70-74-66), Bubba Watson (72-63-75); 211: Zach Johnson (72-69-70); 212: Russell Knox (Sco, 69-72-71), Patrick Reed (72-69-71), Brooks Koepka (72-68-72); 217: Emiliano Grillo (Arg, 70-72-75).