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Jazz Janewattananond in three-way tie at the top in Japan

Jazz Janewattananond in three-way tie at the top in Japan

Jazz Janewattananond finished his second round with a hat-trick of birdies to sit alongside Grant Forrest and Lucas Herbert at the top of the 2023 ISPS HANDA - CHAMPIONSHIP leaderboard at the halfway stage.

Thailand's Janewattananond saved his best for last as he followed up his opening 67 with a stunning 63 on Friday, making five birdies over the last seven holes to reach ten under par.

Forrest also finished with a flourish as he posted a sensational 62 for the lowest round of the week so far.

The Scot drained a monster birdie putt at the eighth - his penultimate hole - before making a closing gain from around ten feet to join early starters Janewattananond and Herbert at the summit.

Australian Herbert, whose arrival into Japan was delayed by travel issues earlier in the week, shot a second-round 63 which contained nine birdies and two bogeys.

Germany's Maximilian Kieffer was in solo fourth, one shot behind the leaders on nine under after his 65.

Takumi Kanaya was the leading Japanese player on eight under, while England's Jordan Smith and South African Deon Germishuys were also on that mark.

Janewattananond reached the turn in 33 blows after making three birdies and a single bogey on the front nine.

He then sandwiched his second bogey of the day between birdies on the tenth and 12th before birdieing the 14th to get to seven under par.

And he finished his round strongly, reeling off three successive birdies at the 16th, 17th and 18th to get to ten under.

Janewattananond was pleased with the way he finished, saying: "It was amazing.

"It was slow at the start and then it built up and had a really good finish.

"I'm feeling good, feeling comfortable on the golf course, not so tense. I used to play on the JGTO (Japan Golf Tour Organisation) so it’s good to be back here in Japan playing a similar golf course to what I used to play back in 2019, so it’s good to be back."

Forrest turned in 30 after making five birdies on his front nine - at the tenth, 12th, 14th, 16th and 18th.

After making his first bogey of the day on the second, the 29-year-old responded with birdies at the third and fifth before closing his round with two more at the eighth and ninth.

Forrest said: "I didn’t realise where I was until the last green and I thought ‘oh this is for a 62’.

"Just plugged away all day. Got the putter going, I didn’t really hole any putts yesterday but managed to roll in a few. 

"Got one in on the eighth, our 17th, from a long way. Other than that, just pretty solid.

"I’m looking forward to the weekend. The course is firming up a bit. There have been some tucked pins and I imagine it will stay the same going into the weekend."

Herbert, who sits 11th on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex, started from the tenth tee on Friday and birdied his opening hole before giving the shot straight back on the 11th.

The 27-year-old then made four birdies in five holes from the 13th to surge up the leaderboard.

And he carded four birdies and one bogey on his back nine - finishing with a gain from 25 feet at the ninth.

Herbert believes his late arrival may have been "a blessing in disguise".

He said: "It was a bit of a travel debacle getting here. It might have been a bit of a blessing in disguise. 

"Out on the course you can just commit to a shot a bit easier and not know what is left or right.

"You don’t have the same memories from hitting bad shots in the practice round, or knowing where the bad places are. Just stand up, look at a target, and hit it. 

"Nick, my caddie, got here when he should have and did all the work for me. That speaks a lot to why we are ten under through 36 holes."

Four-time Major Champion Ernie Els put on a show on Friday, holing his bunker shot for an eagle on the 16th to reach four under and safely make the cut.

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