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Katayama carries the torch for Asia

INSPIRED by Japan's win at last month's World Baseball Classic, Shingo Katayama will carry Asian hopes for a first major victory into the final round of the US Masters.

Katayama, wearing his trademark cowboy hat, put himself in contention for a Green Jacket after carding a two-under 70 on Saturday to sit just five shots back of co-leaders American Kenny Perry and Argentine Angel Cabrera.

"I don't think anybody really knows whether I can do that (make up five shots) or not," Katayama said through an interpreter. "I am chasing and I can be as aggressive as I want to, to accomplish that.

"Japan won the World Baseball Classic and that just motivates me to do my best."

Ever since Chinese Taipei's Lu Liang-huan ran Lee Trevino desperately close at the 1971 British Open, the golfing world has patiently awaited the first Asian winner of a men's major.

Since Lu finished a stroke behind Trevino at Royal Birkdale, Asia has celebrated two other second-place finishes at majors.

Japan's Isao Aoki broke the scoring record in the 1980 US Open at Baltusrol but Jack Nicklaus trimmed it by another two shots to win.

At the 1985 US Open at Oakland Hills, Chinese Taipei's T.C. Chen equaled the tournament record for the first 36 and 54 holes but his victory hopes faded as he closed with a 77 to tie for second.

Playing in his eighth Masters, Katayama had been the forgotten man at Augusta National, overshadowed by teenage compatriot Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old heartthrob who has captured the attention of Japanese sports fans with his boy-band looks and comparisons to Tiger Woods.

But when Ishikawa missed the cut in the year's first major, the spotlight shifted to Katayama.


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