Justin Suh holds first PGA Tour 54-hole lead at Zozo Championship

Justin Suh holds first PGA Tour 54-hole lead at Zozo Championship
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INZAI CITY, Japan — Justin Suh shot a 3-under 67 on Saturday to lead the third round of the Zozo Championship, the first time he’s the leader going into the final day of a PGA Tour event, and also looking at his first PGA Tour victory.

Just one shot behind are fellow Americans Eric Cole and Beau Hossler, who are also seeking their first PGA Tour victories. Cole shot 66 and Hossler, the second-round leader, had a 68 on a sunny fall day at the Narashino Country Club just outside Tokyo.

To make the three very uncomfortable, Collin Morikawa — the first-round leader — is just two shots back after a 66. Morikawa is looking to break a “mini-slump” since winning the 2021 British Open and the DP World Tour Championship later that year. He also won the PGA Championship in 2020.

Suh played on the Korn Ferry Tour, the developmental feeder for the PGA Tour, and credits the experience there for his growing maturity.

“Throughout this year I’ve put myself in this position a few times in some big tournaments,” Suh said. “Every week you put yourself in this position you learn a little piece of it.”

Suh is a former No. 1-ranked world amateur and a former conference player of the year at the University of Southern California.

“I think just gaining the experience is the big part,” Suh added. “Hopefully, you know, I just come here and just do what we’ve been doing; try to find fairways, greens and just be aware of all the changing conditions.”

Morikawa hit only three fairways in the wind-blown 73 in the second round. He was hardly any better Saturday, hitting four. But despite dropping three shots over the first four holes, he recovered with eight birdies and a bogey over the last 14 holes.

“It wasn’t an inability to handle the wind, it was just an inability to hit fairways. And that continued today,” Morikawa said. “Look, the irons still really good. It’s not the irons, it’s just can I manage from the middle of the fairway or not.”

He almost predicted he’ll be a major threat on Sunday to the three ahead of him.

“I haven’t had a round like that in a while. I think it just shows that my head’s in the right space.”

Hossler said the same thing about hitting in the fairways, and several players mentioned reading the changing wind direction with a sunny day predicted for Sunday. Overnight rain was predicted for late Saturday.

“The key out here is absolutely to get the ball in the fairway because playing out of this zoysia rough, you just have no clue what it’s going to do.” Hossler said.

Morikawa has distant roots in Japan, so winning here would be special. There are also several Japanese players — or players with Japanese roots — in the chase.

Satoshi Kodaira of Japan is three back at 6-under 204 after a 69. American Kurt Kitayama had the low round Saturday of 64, leaving him alone at four back. And Ryo Ishikawa of Japan carded 69, in a group of three that’s five off the pace.

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