Prolific Rikuya Hoshino steps on gas to pass Major test

Rikuya Hoshino - TheGolfingHub
Rikuya Hoshino leads by two from overnight leader Aguri Iwasaki, who posted a 70 to sit in outright second place. Photo: JGTO

Just into his sixth year as a professional, Rikuya Hoshino is already considered a prolific winner, having won on five occasions on JGTO.

However, none of them was gained from any of the four major events.

But that could all change tomorrow as Hoshino took a big step towards winning the BMW Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup, the Tour’s flagship event, after opening a two-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard following the completion of the third round today.

The Japanese carded a sizzling six-under-par 65, which featured an eagle, five birdies and a bogey for a three-day total of 11-under-par 202. He leads by two from overnight leader Aguri Iwasaki, who posted a 70 to sit in outright second place.

Related: Aguri Iwasaki sparkles on rain-hit day at Tour Championship

Kazuki Higa, the Kansai Open winner, also stole the limelight with a superb 65 to stay three shots off the pace in third place. He remains in contention to become the second multiple winner this season after Shugo Imahira.

Australia’s Anthony Quayle (70), Taichi Kimura (72) and Kensei Hirata (70) were bunched in fourth on matching 206 totals.

But all eyes will be on Hoshino to see if he can finally shrug off his nearly-man status this season.

Hoshino had previously come close on three occasions, losing the ISPS Handa Championship and Kansai Championship by agonisingly one shot. After missing out on the playoff by one shot, he also had to settle for third place at the Token Homemate Cup.

“I knew I had to improve my score today if I’m to fight for the title, so by managing six-under today, it’s a very good score for me,” said Hoshino, who also posted top-10 finishes at The Crowns and Diamond Cup.

“I’m so happy that I managed to several crucial par saves today.”

Hailing from Ibaraki, Hoshino will be counting on home comfort as he seeks to win his biggest victory yet.

“It feels so good to be playing in my hometown. My house is just 10 minutes from here. I had the chance to go home after the second round, took a rest, and then returned feeling recharged,” he said.

“I practice here a lot and know this course well. I want to win here and make everyone’s proud.”

Quayle, meanwhile, remained within striking distance of his maiden victory on JGTO after grinding out a 70 at the Shishido Hills Country Club.

Having experienced letting slip of a four-shot advantage in the final round himself to finish runner-up at the Mizuno Open last week, Quayle is adamant that there’s still all to play for.

But to put up a strong bid, Quayle said he must first get his cold putter firing at all cylinders again.

“I was a little off today. It wasn’t too bad. I felt like I could still post a score, just the putter was a bit colder than normal,” lamented Quayle, who traded three birdies against two bogeys.

“I’m still putting okay. I just got nothing out of it today. A lot of putts still went missing, bending around the edges.

“But I was able to grind out an under-par score to give myself a chance tomorrow.”

“You can win from that far behind, but Hoshino is obviously a great player, and I don’t expect him to make many mistakes.

“I’m just going to go out there and shoot the best score and see where that gets me.”