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Min Woo Lee shares lead with Rikuya Hoshino in Sydney

Min Woo Lee shares lead with Rikuya Hoshino in Sydney

Min Woo Lee and Rikuya Hoshino are tied at the top of the leaderboard ahead of the final round of the ISPS HANDA Australian Open in Sydney.

Lee, who held a three-shot lead at the halfway stage, made a birdie putt in front of a packed gallery around the 18th green at The Australian Golf Club to card a one-under-par 70 to head into the final day at 13 under.

Hoshino earlier set the clubhouse target on Saturday with a flawless 65 and is in the final group alongside Lee for the second week running after finishing runner-up to the home favourite at last week’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.

Alex Fitzpatrick is a shot adrift in his bid to win for the first time on the DP World Tour after he covered the back nine in just 30 shots to card a superb 66 and sit alongside American Patrick Rodgers, while Australian Lucas Herbert is two back in fifth.

Lee is aiming to become just the seventh Australian to win both the Australian PGA Championship and Australian Open in the same year and he was pleased to keep himself well placed to cap his year off in style.

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Min Woo Lee celebrates his birdie on the 18th green

“If I win, I win and last week was last week,” said Lee. “I played great then, so hopefully I can finish it off tomorrow.

“I know there’s a lot of history to it, but it’s just another tournament. If it goes well, it goes well.

“Obviously it is towards the end of the year and [my] last round of the year is tomorrow, but it’s just another reason to give it my all before I take a break.

“I’m pretty happy with the game and I feel fine. So, hopefully tomorrow’s good.”

Lee got his day off to the perfect start with a birdie at the first before bouncing back from a double bogey at the third with back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth to reach the turn with his overnight three shot lead intact.

But his advantage was quickly wiped out when Hoshino eagled the 13th and he bogeyed the tenth, before he battled over the back nine and will hope his closing birdie will provide some momentum.

Lee, ranked at a career-high 38th in the world rankings, credited an improvement in being competitive even when he is not at his best as pivotal to the strides he had made in his game.

“That was a problem a couple of years ago and last year and this year’s been pretty good where my bad game has been still okay to compete,” added the fledgling Race to Dubai Rankings in partnership with Rolex leader.

“So, I think that’s what has got me to this level now and the level that I can win. I think that’s what I learned from the best players in the world, you think they don’t have it and they’re still round there.

“It’s nice to have that attribute and hopefully I can keep doing that and hopefully tomorrow’s a good day.”

Hoshino is enjoying an impressive first visit to Australia and mixed an eagle with four birdies to match the low round of the day.

The Japanese will now aim to fulfil his ambition of winning on the DP World Tour and land a first title outside of his home country.

“I’m going to use my experience of winning many tournaments in Japan and also my goal is winning on the DP World Tour this year, so I’m going to try to do my best," he said.

Fitzpatrick, who claimed his first professional title on the European Challenge Tour earlier this year, recovered from a bogey at the eighth to vault himself into contention on Saturday with a stunning back nine charge.

“Overall, I’m extremely happy with the day and I guess that’s why they call it moving day, hopefully you can drop a low one and get yourself in contention going on Sunday,” he reflected.

“Proud of myself for hanging in there and just sticking with my game and trusting myself.”

PGA Tour member Rodgers carded a 68 that featured six birdies and three bogeys to give himself hope of victory Down Under.

The American will be joined by three-time DP World Tour winner Lucas Herbert in the penultimate group after a 66 that featured six birdies and just one blemish on his card.

Calum Hill of Scotland made the second hole in one of the week at the par three 11th, holing his tee shot from 188 yards.

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