FUKUSHIMA TAMES BELMONT ELEMENTS

4 Dec 2013

By Colin Thompson, The Royal Gazette
Photo by Glenn Tucker

American Tour player Kent Fukushima conquered breezy conditions yesterday at Belmont Hills to move into a one-stroke lead in the Gosling’s Invitational at the halfway mark.

Fukushima fired a three-under-par 67 to move to seven under for the tournament on 133, with Joe Horowitz, his fellow American who was the overnight leader, in second place after returning a two-over 72.

A mere six shots back is the veteran Hav Trott, a four-times tournament winner and the low Bermudian in the field. Trott, whose wins in the event date as far back as to span a six-year period between 1976 and 1981, has defied the odds with rounds of 67 and 72 that have left him in lofty company with 36 holes remaining. The overwhelming senior division favourite got off the par-70 course having offset four bogeys with two birdies.

With the Warwick course bearing its teeth for the first time this week, Fukushima held it all together, rattling in five birdies that were slightly offset by two bogeys coming in.

He started the second round in fourth after carding a four-under 66 on Monday in perfect weather conditions. “I struck it well and felt good,” Fukushima said. “I played really well and hit a lot of good shots.”

Fukushima was two under after nine holes and his round gained further momentum when he rolled in birdies at the par-four 10th and par-five 12th.

But any thoughts of a grandstand finish evaporated after the American bogeyed two of the last three holes.

He got up and down for bogey at the 16th after his iron approach landed short of the green, and he three- putted for bogey at the last. They proved to be two of the hardest holes to play yesterday, owing to the pin placement and high winds.

“That was a little sour there,” Fukushima said. “but the rest of the round was really good.”

Horowitz, who equalled the course and tournament record the previous day with an eight-under 62, carded three birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey at the par-four 5th hole to lose his early momentum.

Also carding a 67 in yesterday’s challenging conditions was Jordan Mitchell, the former Bermuda Open and Bacardi Par 3 World Championship winner, who is three strokes off the pace on 136. The American’s round contained four birdies, all on the front nine, and a solitary bogey at the difficult 18th.

“I played really good on the front and made some putts,” Mitchell said. “I shot four under on the front and then just played real steady on the back side.”

Kirk Hanefeld, a two-times champion, has put himself in the thick of the hunt on 137 after a round of 69 that contained five birdies and four bogeys. The American, who is fifth, had got to five under for the tournament as he headed to the 14th hole tee box.

“I was pretty happy at that point,” the joint course and tournament record-holder said. “Making a couple of bogeys coming in kind of soured the round a little bit. But it was tough out there.”

Past champion Dwayne Pearman, of Bermuda, ballooned to a 76 to slide down the field at one-over, eight strokes off the pace. He is joined by Nick Jones, a fellow local professional, who returned a commendable 71 yesterday. Steven DeCosta, an amateur, joined Jones in recording the lowest round of any local player. He is on 145, five over for the tournament.

Bill Walsh, the two-times defending champion, may have to grow wings to catch the leaders after a disappointing 76 put him 12 strokes adrift

Bermuda’s Mark Phillips claimed the outright lead in the Open Division on 141 after carding a two-over-par 72 that contained three birdies, an eagle, three bogeys and two double bogeys. His eagle at the par-five 6th was his second of the tournament.



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