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Aaron Cockerill takes narrow lead into final round in Japan

Aaron Cockerill takes narrow lead into final round in Japan

Aaron Cockerill heads into the final round of the 2023 ISPS HANDA - CHAMPIONSHIP with a one-shot lead after making a lightning-quick start on Saturday.

The Canadian began his third-round 64 with a hat-trick of birdies before making four more gains and a single bogey to reach 13 under par.

But if Cockerill is to secure his maiden DP World Tour title at PGM Ishioka Golf Club on Sunday, he will have to fight off a stellar chasing pack.

Australian Lucas Herbert and Scotland's David Law were just a shot back on 12 under after posting rounds of 68 and 64 respectively on Moving Day.

Japanese duo Rikuya Hoshino and Takumi Kanaya shared fourth place with Scot Grant Forrest on 11 under, one stroke clear of Jazz Janewattananond and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Cockerill got off to the perfect start, picking up shots at the first, second and third to jump to ten under.

A wonderful approach at the fifth set up an eagle chance but he instead had to settle for his fourth birdie of the day.

He finished off the front nine with a 12-foot birdie to reach the turn in 30.

After making two more gains at the 12th and 14th to get to 14 under, Cockerill made his only bogey on the 15th.

A delightful chip saw Cockerill get up and down for par on the 16th before another good save on the 17th kept him in front.

And he safely parred the last to take a narrow lead into the final day.

Cockerill said: "Dream start. I hit it close the first couple of holes. Made a ten-footer, hit it close for eagle on the fifth and actually missed it.

"But yeah, just an awesome start and just kind of played steady the rest of the way but overall a very good day.

"I feel really good. This is the best I've hit the ball in a long time, and it's required out here with the rough being up, and it's firm.

"Just putting it in the fairway, and everything else has been really solid so I'll look to continue that tomorrow."

Reflecting on becoming a father in February, Cockerill added: "It's been awesome and she's a very good little baby. We're very lucky - she sleeps a lot and she's very happy.

"They're coming over to Rome in a couple of weeks so I'm excited to see them soon."

Law started the day on six under but carded seven birdies and one bogey in his third round to storm into contention.

After struggling with injury earlier in the year, the 31-year-old insisted he is feeling fit again.

He said: "The body feels better. I injured my hip and back just after Dubai (in January). I played in Thailand and India and I probably shouldn’t have.

"I wasn’t really fit and ready to go by then, and then I went to South Africa and it still wasn’t quite there.

"I started to do Pilates just after India, that seems to have worked. It takes a bit of pressure off the hip. My back is feeling a bit better, I’m feeling fit."

Halfway co-leader Herbert made a birdie-bogey-birdie start but had to wait a long time for his next gain, carding 12 successive pars before notching a birdie at the 16th to move to 12 under.

Herbert is keen to add to his two DP World Tour titles on Sunday.

He said: "There's nothing else I want to do tomorrow other than win.

"I don't know that I'm going to need to shoot a 63 tomorrow. Just a good, solid round that keeps the bogeys off the scorecard will probably go pretty close."

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