Matsuyama magic leads Asian challenge at US Open

Hideki Matsuyama exploded with a magnificent seven-under-par 65 to spearhead Asia’s US Open challenge on Friday as Li Haotong carved a piece of history for China.Matsuyama, who struggled with a two-over-par 74 on Thursday, roared up the leaderboard with a front nine birdie blitz to finish the day at five under.

With just two strokes separating Matsuyama from the leading group, and no major winners in the top 18 players on the leaderboard, the Japanese star now looks as good a bet as any to challenge for the title this weekend.Matsuyama’s chances are also boosted by the early exit of the three players above him in the world rankings -- Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.”I’m very excited and very happy with the score,” Matsuyama said. “There were a couple of loose swings out there, but when you shoot 65, you can take those.”Matsuyama’s sizzling run of birdies began on the par-five first, when he reached the edge of the green in two before getting up and down for birdie.A chip to six feet set up a further birdie on the second before a superb iron to left him with an easy birdie on the fourth.

A solid tee-shot on the par-three sixth gave him another chance which he rolled in nervelessly from 13ft.

- Putting the key -

It was the start of three consecutive birdies. Another sublime wedge from the fairway to three feet presented him with a tap-in on the seventh while on the eighth, he stroked home 22ft effort to move to six under for the round.A relative lull followed with four straight pars but another long-range putt -- this time from 28ft -- presented him with a seventh birdie on the 13th.

- AFP

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