Cheng Maintains Small Lead, Masters Invitation Awaits Winner

Jin Cheng, of China, will go into the final day of the seventh Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) in Hong Kong with a slender one-shot advantage over Australian duo Cameron Davis and Ryan Ruffels. With the threat of a looming typhoon that brought high winds to the dramatic Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club course, the No. 1-ranked amateur in China came through unscathed with a solid 1-under-par 69.

Jin, who sits at 11-under for the Championship, didn’t have it all his own way on Saturday, however, with Davis putting the pressure on by making four birdies in his first 10 holes to join him at the top of the leader board. The Beijing native, who said he had never experienced such windy conditions, held his nerve and responded with a superbly judged chip at the par-5 closing hole to secure a birdie and regain his advantage.

“I was really lucky that I had a great lie,” said Jin of his chip. “I did exactly what I wanted to do. It was a good shot.”

Davis was justifiably pleased with his day’s work and is well aware of the opportunities – an invitation to the Masters Tournament and a place in The Open Qualifying Series – that await tomorrow’s winner.

“It would be great to have a run at it, knowing I’m one back now,” said the 20-year-old from Sydney, who was in the same group as Ruffels, his friend and international teammate. “I played really well. Both Ryan and I played great in these conditions and we have to be proud of that. We have such a big reward to play for.”

Seventeen-year-old Ruffels joined Davis at 10-under thanks to a birdie of his own at the 18th. Reaching the green in two, following a brilliant approach, Ruffels, who at No. 8 is the highest ranked player in the field, narrowly missed his putt for eagle.

“I hit a beautiful shot into the green to give myself a chance into the wind, a nice little 4-iron, and I just thought coming off the ridge that it was going to break right-to-left,” Ruffels said. “This week I’ve pretty much made every putt I’ve looked at.”

Davis and Ruffels are looking to bring the trophy back to Australia for the second consecutive year following Antonio Murdaca’s heroics of 2014. The defending champion got himself back into contention after producing the round of the day – a bogey-free 64 – to lie in solo sixth at 7-under-par.

“Overall I’m really happy with my round today,” said Murdaca, who hit 17 greens in regulation. “Hopefully I can go out and have a low one tomorrow.”

With nine players within six shots of Jin’s lead – including Chinese Taipei’s Chun-an Yu and South Korea’s Tae-ho Kim, who share fourth spot on 8-under-par – the final round is destined to be closely fought.

The 2012 champion, Guan Tianlang of China, is down in a tie for 47th after carding a 4-over 74, while local favourite Matthew Cheung faded with a 77.

Since its inauguration in 2009, the AAC has produced an impressive list of winners, including two-time champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who has recorded top-20 finishes across all four majors since turning professional in 2013.

For a listing of results, click here.