SHANGHAI (AP) — Hideki Matsuyama arrived at the HSBC Champions as the first Japanese player in nearly two decades to reach the top 10 in the world ranking. His 19 birdies over 36 holes in biting chill and swirling wind helped explain how he got there.
Even as the weather shifted dramatically Friday at Sheshan International, Matsuyama kept piling up the birdies. One last birdie on the par-5 18th gave him a 7-under 65 and a three-shot lead going into the weekend of the final World Golf Championships event of the year.
Matsuyama was at 13-under 131 and led by three shots over defending champion Russell Knox (68) and Bill Haas (67). He shouldn’t have been surprised by the result because it was his eighth consecutive score in the 60s dating to the second round of the Tour Championship.
Rain the last two days gave way to a strong wind when Matsuyama was warming up, and the wind made the sharp dip of temperatures into the 50s feel even worse.
Fifteen players still managed to break 70 because of the rain-softened greens, and while Matsuyama’s 65 was the best score of the second round, making it even more impressive was that he also had two bogeys. On Thursday, he had 10 birdies against four bogeys.
Matsuyama already is having his biggest year since he began playing regularly round the world in 2014. He overcame a two-shot deficit over the last two holes and beat Rickie Fowler in the Phoenix Open. He had another top 10 in the Masters. Two weeks ago, he won the Japan Open for his ninth victory worldwide. He was runner-up to Justin Thomas in Malaysia last week, pushing him to No. 10.
SIME DARBY LPGA MALAYSIA
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Amy Yang holed a pitching wedge for eagle on the par-4 11th hole and stretched her lead to three strokes in the hot, humid and stormy Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
The 27-year-old South Korean player had a 2-under 69 at TPC Kuala Lumpur, a day after shooting 63 to miss her own course record by a stroke. She parred the first 10, then hit the approach that landed on the front of the green, hopped and rolled in.
Anna Nordqvist, Mi Jung Hur and Candie Kung were tied for second after the round that was delayed about two hours because of lightning — accompanied by periods of heavy rain — with the last group in the 16th fairway. Nordqvist had a 68, and Hur and Kung each shot 65 to match the best rounds of the day.
They’re playing TPC Kuala Lumpur’s East Course, a week after Justin Thomas successfully defended his title on the West Course in the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic.
Yang made her first bogey of the week after hitting into the water on the par-4 14th. She returned from the delay — and lunch — to hole a 20-footer for birdie on the par-5 16th. Both of her LPGA Tour victories have come in Asia, the first in 2013 in South Korea and the second last year in Thailand.
Michelle Wie followed her opening 66 with a 70 to drop four strokes behind.
POWERSHARES QQQ CHAMPIONSHIP
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Fred Couples shot a 4-under 68 in his first competitive round in eight months, while Bernhard Langer withdrew without hitting a shot in the PowerShares QQQ Championship.
Returning from a chronic back injury, the 57-year-old Couples had three straight birdies on the back nine at Sherwood in the PGA Tour Champions’ playoff opener. He was tied for eighth, three strokes behind leader Colin Montgomerie.
Langer re-aggravated a left knee injury at home in Florida doing routine spinning, had an MRI on Monday and wasn’t able to play a practice round.
Montgomerie shot a 65, closing with a birdie after nearly holing his approach on the par-4 18th. The Scot birdied the first three holes, and had four more on the back nine. He won in Canada this season for his fourth tour title and is fourth in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.
Fred Funk was two strokes back at 67 along with Scott McCarron, Jim Carter, Joey Sindelar, Jerry Smith and Brandt Jobe.
SANDERSON FARMS CHAMPIONSHIP
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Grayson Murray shot a 7-under 65 on Friday to take a two-shot lead in the Sanderson Farms Championship.
The 23-year-old Murray, a rookie playing in his third career PGA Tour event, rebounded from an opening bogey on No. 9 to make eight birdies — the last on the final hole. He had a 12-under 132 total at the Country Club of Jackson.
Greg Owen (67) and Seamus Power (69) were for second, and Lucas Glover (69), Trey Mullinax (70), Graham DeLaet (69) and Brandon Hagy (68)were three strokes back.
Kevin Streelman had a two-shot lead after shooting a 63 in the first round, but struggled to a 73 to fall four strokes behind Murray. Cody Gribble had a 63 to pull within four shots.