Golf: Fujimoto beats fatigue for third-round lead at SMBC Singapore Open

Yoshinori Fujimoto claimed a one-stroke lead at the tournament's three-quarter mark.
Yoshinori Fujimoto claimed a one-stroke lead at the tournament's three-quarter mark.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Having been at the mercy of the weather for the past two days, Yoshinori Fujimoto was not expecting to finish his round again at the SMBC Singapore Open on Saturday (Jan 19).

But finish he did, and with aplomb too, as the Japanese claimed a one-stroke lead at the tournament's three-quarter mark.

With the sun setting on the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course, the world No. 180 sank a birdie putt on the 18th for a five-under 66 and a 13-under 200 total (67-67-66), putting some daylight between himself and the chasing pack going into the final round on Sunday.

"I'm glad we managed to finish before play was suspended. I'm really tired now but at the same time I'm enjoying playing with the international players," said the 29-year-old, who shared a flight with world No. 24 Paul Casey and Thailand's Poom Saksansin.

"They played with good rhythm, so I had a good time watching them. Maybe that was why I was smiling all the time out there."

His play gave him even more reason to smile, with the highlight of his round an eagle on the par-five seventh hole, where a splendid approach shot set up a straightforward putt on the green.

"We all play golf to win but I like to enjoy myself, play good golf and put on a show for the spectators too," said the mustachioed Fujimoto.

 
 

"It's been a while since I last won (in 2013). My family is back in Japan supporting me and I would like to give them some good news tomorrow."

It was good news on the weather front yesterday, with play at the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) event unaffected by delays for the first time in the week.

Half the field had returned in the morning to complete their second rounds, with Fujimoto playing 29 holes in total on Saturday.

Playing the extra holes seemed to have helped Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond (68-68-65) and England's Matthew Fitzpatrick (68-67-66) as well, with Jazz shooting the low round of the day.

Both are one stroke adrift of Fujimoto on 12-under 201.

South Korean Mun Do-yeob, Casey and Thailand's Chapchai Nirat are a further two strokes back on 203.

The 23-year-old Jazz revealed a unique strategy for alleviating the pressure on himself going into the last 18 holes, which start at 7.30am on Sunday: focus on getting one of four qualifying spots to July's The Open Championship instead of the win.

The top four finishers here not already exempt will earn berths for Royal Portrush.

"Yes, everybody wants to win and so do I. But there are a lot of good players out here. If you aim for the win, you put a lot of pressure on yourself," said the world No. 111.

"But if you aim for the Open, which is four spots, you just have to play your game, hit some good shots. Top four is doable if you don't make any mistakes.

"I learnt a lot last year (at the Open) when I made my Major debut, so it will be good to play there again."