Vantelin Tokai Classic 2022

Surprised Kennedy looks towards summit after opening with a 67

Surprised Kennedy looks towards summit after opening with a 67

Australia's Brad Kennedy surprised even himself after making a superb start to his Vantelin Tokai Classic campaign at the Miyoshi Country Club- a venue which he has not enjoyed a proud record.

The 48-year-old fired a four-under-par 67 to grab a share of third spot, just two shots behind the leader Genki Okada, who impressed with a 65.

Kennedy's bogey-free round contained four birdies at the fifth, ninth, 11th and 15th.

The three-time JGTO winner is among the five players bunched in third, featuring also South Korea's Eunshin Park and the highly-rated former world number one amateur Keita Nakajima.

Okada birdied five times on his inward nine to grab a one-shot lead over Daiki Imano.

American Todd Baek and Gunn Charoenkul were the next best-placed internationals in joint seventh after they returned matching 68s.

Defending champion Chan Kim of the United States could only manage an opening 71 to be tied 52nd.

Kennedy, who has now recorded nine consecutive under-par rounds since the Shinhan Donghae Open, with seven of them being in sub-70s, was pleased to continue with his consistent display.

"It was a solid day and even when I got out of position, I was able to get up and down and keep the momentum," said Kennedy, who had five top-10 finishes this season.

"Hit my wedges well today and had plenty of chances. I also made birdie with 8-iron twice which is a bonus. I’m just trying to get better and learn more every time a go out there."

"Continue to play smart aggressive golf but at the same time play within myself and not press which I tend to do."

Kennedy has also justified his decision to sign up for the event which he usually skipped.

This week marked his only third appearance since he started playing full-time in Japan.

"Miyoshi CC is not a course I feel fits my eye and it’s often been an event I’ve missed during this busy part of the season," explained Kennedy, who finished tied 24th in 2014 and tied 32 in 2019 in his earlier two appearances.

"Today I allowed myself the freedom to let go of expectations and play the shots with absolute intent. Tomorrow will be another test which I will be prepared for."

Further down the leaderboard, fellow Australians Anthony Quayle and Adam Bland sit at two-under in a tie for 22nd.