Japan will take a slender one stroke lead into the final day of the World Golf Championships – EMC² World Cup in Mexico after a blistering 14 under par 58 in the second fourball series at Vista Vallarta took them to 30 under par and one stroke clear of Fiji.
Shigeki Maruyama and Toshi Izawa combined to produce 12 birdies and an eagle two, Izawa pitching in on the 13th hole, to overtake the Fijian pairing of Vijay Singh and Dinesh Chand. The defending champions South Africa, represented by Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini continue to put up a stout defence of the title won by Ernie Els and Retief Goosen last year, a third round 62 leaving them in third place on 28 under par going into the final day foursomes.
But the round of the day went to the United States as Phil Mickelson and David Toms forced their way back into contention, negotiating the spectacular Nicklaus Course at Vista Vallarta in just 57 strokes, equalling the WGC – EMC² World Cup record set two years ago in Argentina.
Mickelson and Toms, who teamed up to win two and a half points out of four in The 34th Ryder Cup Matches in September, lie just three strokes off the pace. Canada, England and Scotland remain very much in the frame just four shots off the lead on 26 under par.
Japan last won the World Cup 45 years ago and put themselves in pole position to repeat that feat thanks to a wonderful back nine of 28 which included a run of five birdies and an eagle in the six holes from the 11th.
“We had a very good front nine with six birdies but the turning point was the 13th when Izawasan made eagle,” said Mauyama. “That was the shot of the day. My play got better and overall it was a very good round.”
Singh, an Honorary Member of The European Tour, and Chand, who plies his trade in the Japan Golf Tour, fired ten birdies in total to lie just one shot off the pace.
“The foursomes format tomorrow is difficult but if we can hole some putts we will have a chance,” said Singh. “It will be great if we can go on and win. Playing together and being in contention for the first time is a big thing. I just hope we can pull through tomorrow.”
South Africa remain hot on their heels thanks to a ten under par 62. Clark, winner of the Bell’s South African Open on The European Tour International Schedule earlier this year, made four birdies to Sabbatini’s six. They will go into the final round paired with the United States.
Mickelson and Toms were outstanding, covering the back nine with seven birdies and an eagle to come home in 27. Six of those birdies and the eagle came from Mickelson as the left hander hit a hot streak.
“We were a long way back and needed to have a good day to make up some ground,” said Mickelson. “We have made up half of the seven shots were were behind which was not easy in fourball as nobody is going to make bogey. We played very well as a team, David holing a few putts early on to keep the momentum going and we got a hot hand on the back nine to come home in nine under. Tomorrow will be an opportunity for us to try to post a score that will be tough to beat.”
“It was fantastic out there,” added Toms. “To see somebody playing at that level and get in the zone everybody talks about was not only fun for me but fun for the fans. They got excited and it helped a lot.”
Scotland chipped in twice on their way to a betterball score of 62 to lie on 26 under but England came away feeling slightly frustrated after matching their score. Paul Casey and Justin Rose moved into the lead after picking up six birdies and an eagle in their first ten holes but could only pick up two more shots coming home as the leaders pulled away.
“We are four back on Japan and that will be tough,” said Rose. “We need something like yesterday but there is everything to play for.”