Miracle Man Kiyota Leads Johnnie Walker Classic

Sat 01 Mar 2008

Miracle Man Kiyota Leads Johnnie Walker Classic

Gurgaon, India, March 1: Japan?s Taichiro Kiyota pulled off a miraculous birdie on his last hole to snatch the lead after the third round of the US$2.5 million Johnnie Walker Classic on Saturday.
The Asian Tour stalwart produced a thrilling five-under-par 67 on a sun-baked DLF Golf and Country Club and leads by one stroke from India?s Jyoti Randhawa and Mark Brown of New Zealand.
Randhawa, chasing a home victory which will edge him closer into the world?s top-50 and a place in next month?s US Masters, carded a 68 while Brown, winner of last week?s SAIL Open in India, soared high with two stunning eagles for a 64.
The tournament?s big guns, Vijay Singh of Fiji and Australian Adam Scott, failed to fire. Singh, the world?s number 11, battled for a 69 to lie five off the pace while Scott slipped out of contention after a 74.

The 28-year-old Kiyota, chasing his first victory on the Asian Tour, overclubbed with a three iron approach at the par five 18th which saw his ball skirt past the grandstand before ending well beyond the green. After taking relief, the Japanese pulled off an exquisite chip from 70 yards and stopped his ball five feet from the pin for an unlikely birdie.

?It was crazy,? said Kiyota, who finished 45th on last year?s Asian Tour?s Order of Merit. ?Second shot, I had too much club. I went in the water yesterday so I didn?t want to be short again. Because of that, I hit a three iron and a four iron probably would have been too much as well. Then the pitch was just a miracle shot.

?I am thrilled to make a birdie from near the grandstand. We were allowed a drop which gave us a good lie. Then I hit a miracle shot,? added Kiyota, who has a three-day total of 14-under-par 202.

In position to lift the prestigious Johnnie Walker Classic title where former winners include world number one Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, Kiyota said he needs to stay on an even keel on Sunday to hold off his challengers.

?I?m very much excited, I may not be able to play! It is unbelievable. This is the first time I have been in this position so I am expecting an unbelievable day. It would be a miracle to win,? he said.

?I will try to play my golf but there may be some distractions or whatever, but I will try to overcome all of them and do my best golf.?

Randhawa, who has won five Asian Tour titles on home soil, conceded he was lucky to stay within one shot of Kiyota. He nearly put his ball into water on the 16th hole and like Kiyota, he flew a six iron approach well past the 18th green before saving par.

?I had two bad shots and one, I got away with it; it was almost a certain bogey or double-bogey and I saved par,? said the Indian, who is ranked 77th in the world. ?So the way I played today, I think I'm very happy with where I am. Four under going into the last round, I?m quite pleased with myself.

?I saw Kiyota hit his iron through the 18th green and I was thinking five iron but I took a six iron and thought, you know, with a little bit of head wind, I didn't want to leave it short. And I hit it hard and came over the top. It was just a bad shot and I was lucky to get away with par.?

Brown?s form is still red-hot as he broke through for his maiden Asian Tour victory at the SAIL Open last weekend. A 50-foot eagle putt on the ninth and a second eagle on the last hole after a brilliant seven iron approach put him in position for a crack at a second successive title.

?I started off this morning with no real pressure and just felt if I can shoot a really good round, I could get into contention and that happened,? said Brown.

?On nine, I had not been going for the green all week and I had a three wood into the green and holed an outrageous putt and that was pretty fortunate.?

Brown gave up touring life for three years where he worked as a junior golf coach in Wellington but decided to give the Asian Tour another shot in 2007. ?Basically I just wasn't good enough. I gave it up for three years and worked. I had an itching to start playing again and had a fantastic golf coach in Mal Tongue, and more than anything that encouraged me to come back because I knew what he was teaching was simple and correct and it would hold up under pressure. Hopefully that is going to be the case,? said Brown.

Fiji?s Vijay Singh conceded he made far too many errors in his round of 69, which was a mixed bag of seven birdies and four bogeys. ?I got myself back in a little but just made silly mistakes. We?ll have a go tomorrow and see if we can do,? he said.

Overnight joint leaders Shiv Kapur of India and Unho Park of Australia shot 72 and 75 respectively to slip to tied seventh and equal 21st position respectively.

There was heartbreak for Gaurav Ghei of India when he was disqualified for a rule infringement on Friday. After shooting what would have been a superb 65 on Saturday to move up the leaderboard, TV footages showed that his ball had moved at address at the 18th hole on Friday which he had not noticed.

As it was an infringement that would have warranted a two-shot penalty, the Indian was disqualified for signing for a wrong second round scorecard.

Leading third round scores

202 - Taichiro Kiyota (JPN) 68-67-67

203 - Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 70-65-68, Mark Brown (NZL) 71-68-64

205 - Graeme Storm (ENG) 70-66-69, Phillip Archer (ENG) 72-64-69, Greg Chalmers (AUS) 68-69-68

206 - Shiv Kapur (IND) 69-65-72, Daniel Vancsik (ARG) 67-71-68, Scott Strange (AUS) 71-67-68

207 - Vijay Singh (FIJ) 70-68-69, Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 72-68-67

208 - Adam Bland (AUS) 69-68-71, Paul Sheehan (AUS) 68-70-70, Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 68-70-70, James Kamte (RSA) 68-71-69, Tony Carolan (AUS) 71-69-68, Scott Laycock (AUS) 72-68-68, Arjun Atwal (IND) 69-72-67, Scott Barr (AUS) 71-70-67, Kane Webber (AUS) 73-69-66

209 - Unho Park (AUS) 68-66-75, Jose Manuel Lara (ESP) 69-67-73, Lin Wen-tng (TPE) 70-67-72, Soren Hansen (DEN) 69-69-71, Rahil Gangjee (IND) 68-71-70, Chris Rodgers (ENG) 72-67-70, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 74-65-70, Johan Edfors (SWE) 71-69-69, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 71-70-68

For further information, please contact the Asian Tour?s Chuah Choo Chiang at the Johnnie Walker Classic Media Centre tel: +91 124 734810. Also visit www.asiantour.com for live scoring.



First played in Hong Kong in 1990, the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC broke new ground by not only being the first tournament to be jointly sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian golf Tours, but also by being unique in that the event has been played in seven countries and at 12 golf clubs over the past 17 years. The 2008 JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC has also gained the all-important support of the PGTI, the Professional Golfers Tour India.

The JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC, presented by the world's biggest-selling deluxe whisky, offers prize money of £1.25m (US$2.5m), and will be televised live around the world.

The event is owned by DIAGEO, the world's leading premium drinks business, and managed as it has been since the very first event, by IMG, the world's premier sports, lifestyle management and marketing company.


In the game of golf, there are few brands that can match JOHNNIE WALKER and its association with the sport, the style and excellence of its tournament - the JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC.  It is an event that in 17 years has gained the reputation of being one of the best in the world, continually attracting outstanding players, huge galleries and worldwide television coverage.