Golf

Hideki Matsuyama Holds Lead Midway Through ZOZO Championship

The Masters champion shot a 2-under 68 in the second round to take a one-stroke advantage into the weekend.

Hideki Matsuyama hits a tee shot on the eighth hole of the second round of the ZOZO Championship on October 22 in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture.

Hideki Matsuyama strengthened his bid for the ZOZO Championship title with his second under-par round in as many days at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Friday, October 22.

Matsuyama shot a 2-under 68 in the second round and held a one-stroke lead at 8-under 132 overall at the halfway point of the PGA Tour event in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture.

First-round leader Hiroshi Iwata, who carded a 7-under 63 in the opening round, fired a 73 in the next round. He’s now four shots off the pace along with five others, including Sebastian Munoz.

Munoz tied Cameron Tringale, Branden Grace and Chan Kim for the day’s best round at 4-under 66.

Tringale is one stroke back at 7-under 133 after firing his aforementioned 66, including five birdies, on a chilly, rainy day. 

Temperatures dipped to 12 C late in the second round.

Matt Wallace and Brendan Steele are tied for third place, one stroke adrift of Tringale. Wallace shot a 1-under 69 and Steele carded a 2-under 68.

Joaquin Niemann, who was tied with Matsuyama for second place after the first round, fell three strokes off the lead with a 1-over 71.

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Niemann, who hails from Chile, said the weather affected his performance. Case in point: He began the second round with back-to-back bogeys.

“It was tough, I couldn’t feel my hands and it was really cold,” Niemann was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

Matsuyama, who won the Masters in April, had his lone bogey of the day on the par-4 17th hole, then finished with a birdie on the par-5 18th. 

“It wasn’t a perfect round, but I played well. I’m happy with it,” Matsuyama was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. “It’s not often that we play in rain and cold at the same time, but I’m happy with the round and it was a good day.”

Based on his performance, Tringale also walked off the course in a pleasant mood.

“I left myself in the right positions on these greens and was able to make a few putts. That was the day,” Tringale said, according to AFP.

British Open champion Collin Morikawa improved his score by three strokes in the second round after firing a 1-over 71 in the opening round. He was seven shots behind Matsuyama at 1-under 139.

Another big name, Xander Schauffele, faces an uphill battle to contend for the title. The Tokyo Olympic champion shot a 74 and was 12 strokes adrift entering the weekend.

Author:  Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays,  in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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