Panasonic Open Golf Championship 2022

Rejuvenated Kennedy’s back in the hunt at Panasonic Open Golf Championship

Rejuvenated Kennedy’s back in the hunt at Panasonic Open Golf Championship

A rejuvenated Brad Kennedy is just two shots off the pace heading into the final round of the Panasonic Open with amateur star Taiga Semikawa, Katsumasa Miyamoto and Tomoharu Otsuki in a three-way tie for the top spot.

The 48-year-old Australian, gunning for his fourth JGTO title, is tied for sixth placing at 14-under 202 thanks to a third-round bogey-free 65 at Onotoyo Golf Club in Hyogo on Saturday.

Semikawa blazed the course with an eagle and nine birdies on his way to a record-setting 61, the lowest score ever produced by an amateur on JGTO.

It catapulted him from joint-33rd at the start of the day to the summit alongside overnight leader Miyamoto (67) and Tomoharu Otsuki (66) on 16-under 200.

The local trio hold just a slender one-shot lead over Aguri Iwasaki and Yuto Katsuragawa, promising a thrilling finale with the leading 17 players being separated by just five shots.

Those who keep their title pursuit alive include Philippines veteran Juvic Pagunsan and Australia's Adam Bland, who carded 66 and 69

respectively to finish outright 10th and joint-14th respectively.

A complete one-week break from golf has certainly done Kennedy a whole world of good.

Kennedy found himself struggling to impress of late, missing his first cut of the season at the Fujisankei Classic before settling for tied-38th at the Shinhan Donghae Open.

Before that, he finished no worse than a top-21 in the last six appearances, highlighted by top-three outings at the Gateway to the Open Mizuno Open and ASO Iizuka Challenged Golf Tournament.

"I went home for a week (skipped the ANA Open) to spend some time with family and went fishing. I didn't hit a golf ball at all as I tried to refresh my brain," said Kennedy, whose seven birdies all came in the first 12 holes.

"Since I didn't do any practice, I wasn't expecting any performance. So, it's nice to come back straight away and be competitive.

"It was a good day. The front nine could have been anything. I hit a lot of good shots close enough to give myself plenty of birdie opportunities.

"It's nice to see putts going in and play good golf.

"If I can manage myself properly tomorrow, then I'll be able to put the pressure on the leaders."

Semikawa, who won the Japan Create Challenge in Fukuokaraizan on ABEMA Tour, was elated with his achievement.

"Winning the ABEMA Tour gives me a lot of confidence," said the 21-year-old Semikawa.

"I'm hitting it very well, and so is my putting. I believe I stand a shot at winning the championship. Even if I'm six shots behind after the third day, I would still fancy my chance."

It took Otsuki three years to end his title drought by winning last week's ANA Open title, but now he has a glorious chance of winning his second title in as many weeks.

"I don't know what will happen until the very end, we will see," said Otsuki.