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Four tied at the top in Japan

Four tied at the top in Japan

Local favourite Taihei Sato fired a brilliant 62 to join DP World Tour stars Sam Bairstow, Yannik Paul and Sebastian Söderberg at the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend at the ISPS HANDA - CHAMPIONSHIP.

This week's penultimate event of the Asian Swing is co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation and with big crowds gathered at Taiheiyo Club Gotemba Course, Sato was giving them something to cheer in round two.

After round one was completed early in the morning following Thursday's fog delay, Englishman Bairstow was the man to set the target with a 64 but he would not be alone for long.

Söderberg and Paul joined him at ten under with rounds of 64 and 65 respectively, before Sato completed his eight under par effort to make it a four-way tie.

England's Matthew Southgate and Frenchman Tom Vaillant were then at eight under after rounds of 65.

Bairstow was the only member the leading quartet to have holes to complete from round one and after making a bogey and an eagle to sign for a 66, he started round two with seven pars before birdieing the 17th and eagling the 18th for the second time.

Further gains followed on the first, third and fifth and while he dropped a shot on the sixth, the European Challenge Tour graduate birdied the eighth to lead the way.

"Very solid, yesterday with the delay it was nice to finish with a couple of birdies then come out this morning to finish strong and take it into the second round," he said.

"I’ve played 18 alright today, so hopefully keep doing that. Hit a couple of nice shots, holed a couple of putts.

"Just keeping things simple, sometimes you can overthink it. Keeping my swing feels and putting stroke simple, and trying to enjoy it."

Playing partners Paul and Söderberg made blistering starts, with the Swede birdieing his first four holes with some dialled-in iron play and Paul making gains on the first, second and third.

The German then also birdied the eighth and tenth in a bogey-free effort to join Bairstow at the summit.

"I played better than yesterday, got off to a good start and then the last eight holes a couple of good shots didn’t go as close and I didn’t make as many putts as the beginning," said Paul. "Overall satisfied with the performance. 

"I don’t look at the leaderboard, I just try to stick to the process. Sometimes I get too distracted about the outcome. My main goal is to focus on the process and not the result or the leaderboard. Just see where I end up on Sunday."

Söderberg bogeyed the sixth and 11th but kept in touch with a long putt on the tenth and fantastic recovery after a poor tee-shot on the 12th.

An approach to three feet at the 15th was then followed by another to ten feet at the next.

"It felt good, gave myself a lot of chances and I was hitting it well with the irons," he said.

"It was a bit better today, but I still feel like I’m hitting a few loose drives. Most of the time I have gotten away with it. A few times I had to make good up-and-downs to save par. Overall it’s been very good into and around the greens."

Sato turned in 30 with birdies on the tenth, 12th, 15th, 17th and 18th and added further gains on the first and third.

After a bogey on the fourth, it looked like we would have three Europeans atop the leaderboard but the 30-year-old kept the local flag flying with a birdie-birdie finish to also hit the front.

"I’ve been hitting it well for the past two days so I’m feeling good," he said.

"The DP World Tour is a very special tour for me. As this tournament is being conducted in Japan I want to do my best and get a good result."

Southgate had to play 27 holes on Friday and after completing a first-round 67, he birdied seven of his last 11 in round two, including the final four, to fly up the leaderboard.

Vaillant finished the last six holes of his first round in level par for a 67 before carding six birdies and a single bogey in round two.

England's Will Enefer, Japanese pair Ryosuke Kinoshita and Taiki Yoshida, Northern Ireland's Tom McKibbin and South African Casey Jarvis were then three shots off the lead at seven under.

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