South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai moved into prime position to defend her Women’s Australian Open title, while Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino fired a flawless 65 for a share of the men’s lead with Min Woo Lee.
Buhai, the 2022 Women’s Open winner, opened her account with four straight birdies, sinking one from the bunker to surge into a lead that she never relinquished.
She kept her focus for a bogey-free 67 to be 12 under for the title, leading South Korean veteran Shin Jiyai, herself a two-time Women’s Open champion, by three shots.
“It would be super special [to win again], said Buhai. “I’ve heard it’s going to be windy [on Sunday] which suits me. I think patience is going to be key.”
Australia’s world No 5 and two-time Major winner Minjee Lee – sister of Min Woo Lee – is third, seven behind Buhai.
The mixed Australian Open involves men and women teeing off in alternating groups on the same courses.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Australian Golf Club is the main venue across all four days, while the nearby Lakes Golf Club co-hosted play during the first two rounds.
Six-time Japan Tour winner Hoshino hit four birdies and an eagle to reel in Australian overnight leader Lee in his bid for a maiden DP World Tour win.
Lee began the day in Sydney with a three-stroke lead from Scotland’s Connor Syme and American Patrick Rodgers, but struggled with his putter to card a one-under-par 70, holing a pressure birdie at the last.
It set up a re-run of last week’s Australian PGA Championship in Brisbane, when Lee took a three-shot lead over playing partner Hoshino into the final day and hung on to win his third DP World Tour title.
“It’s one of those days and hopefully I can get it going tomorrow,” said Lee. “Today was a bit of a grind, I didn’t feel like I had it all there, but still did some good stuff.”
Lee opened with a birdie and it looked like he might run away with the lead.
But he found the water at the third to card a double-bogey and another bogey at the 10th coupled with Hoshino’s eagle at the 14th put them level at 12 under par for the tournament.
A birdie for Hoshino at the 18th edged him in front before Lee responded.
“This is the first time I’ve come to Australia and I am enjoying the atmosphere and the tournament. So that’s why I think I’m playing well,” said Hoshino.
“I’m going to use many experiences winning in Japan, and my goal this year is to win a DP World Tour event, so I’m going to try my best.”
England’s Alex Fitzpatrick – the younger brother of 2022 US Open Champion Matt Fitzpatrick – surged into contention with a 66 to be one behind them, alongside Rodgers.
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