SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The name Hiroshi Iwata looked conspicuously out of place surrounded by major champions on the leaderboard after the third round at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament on Saturday.
Iwata was only one stroke behind leader Graeme McDowell at the prestigious event, and the Northern Irishman readily admitted he had never even heard of his closest pursuer.
“Nothing,” McDowell told reporters when asked what he knew of Iwata.
“No disrespect, but genuinely never heard of him. I saw him make one swing today and it looked like a beautiful swing (so) I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about tomorrow.”
Iwata, 33, is a late bloomer, who this July notched his first victory on the Japan Tour at the Fujisankei Classic. He is third on that tour’s money list.
This is his first WGC event but he has looked far from out of his depth with three impressive rounds, and a birdie from off the green at the par-five 18th on Saturday lifted him into second place after a four-under 68 at Sheshan.
His 10-under total is good enough to see him wedged between leader McDowell and third-placed pair Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.
Iwata said he felt calm, but that might change on Sunday if the world number 127 had a chance at what would be a life-changing victory.
“I’m relatively short-tempered,” he said. “I’m pretty famous for that in Japan, so I always try to focus on not getting too angry at myself.
“I’m doing that pretty well at the moment, so I just want to keep that going.”
Editing by John O'Brien