Yuta Ikeda breaches pain barrier to keep his stock soaring

Yuta Ikeda - TheGolfingHub
Starting from the 10th, Yuta Ikeda underlined his intention to keep his overnight lead by birdieing five of the first 11 holes. Photo: JGTO

JGTO veteran Yuta Ikeda continued to defy his neck pain by surging into a one-shot lead at the halfway of the ANA Open in Hokkaido.

The 36-year-old, seeking his third win at the Sapporo Golf Club, brilliantly birdied the ninth and final hole for a second consecutive flawless eight-under-par 64 to edge ahead of Shugo Imahira on Friday.

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Starting from the 10th, Ikeda underlined his intention to keep his overnight lead by birdieing five of the first 11 holes.

He gained two more strokes courtesy of an eagle at the par-five fifth hole before finishing with a flourish to reach the 36-hole mark on 16-under 128.

“I was striking and putting as well as I did yesterday, that’s the key to another good scoring day,” said the 21-time JGTO winner Ikeda, who’s still recovering from a neck strain he sustained three weeks ago.

“I had my trainer to thank for. I discussed with him a lot about my body conditioning and did what he tells me to do.

“I’m certainly pleased with the number (16-under) after two days. Regardless, I’d like to continue playing well because in the next two days.

“This is the best Wattsu course in recent years, it’s very ideal for scoring and I will try to capitalise on it.”

Imahira too resumed his remarkable form from Thursday to add an-improved 64 to his opening 65.

After picking up a stroke at the fifth, he reeled off five straight birdies starting from the 10th before closing with back-to-back birdies to put himself in contention for a third victory of the season after triumphing at the Asia-Pacific Golf Championship Diamond Cup and Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament winner in May.

“This week, it’s my aim to go bogey-free and it’s been so far so good,” said Imahira, who’s twice JGTO money list winner in 2018 and 2019.

“Right now I just want to focus on playing one hole at a time, but ultimately I would like to win a tournament or two in the remainder of the season.

“I have never won three times in a season, so I would like to try to accomplish it.”