Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters 2022

Kennedy storms up to trail by five shots

Kennedy storms up to trail by five shots

Brad Kennedy brilliantly birdied his closing three holes to remain in sight of the leaders heading to the penultimate stage of the Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters in Shizuoka.

The 48-year-old Australian shot an improved four-under-par 66 at the Taiheiyo Club's Gotemba Course to reach the 36-hole mark at three-under-par 137.

It helped Kennedy climb 34 rungs to a share of sixth place alongside Philippines' Juvic Pagunsan and American Chan Kim, trailing just five behind leader Hiroshi Iwata.

Backed by a second successive 66, Iwata seized the top spot at the halfway stage and led by two shots from a trio of Ryo Katsumata (67), Ryo Ishikawa (66) and Taiga Semikawa (67).

Overnight leader Naoto Nakanishi slipped to solo fifth after battling to a 71.

Kennedy was one under through 15 holes after mixing three birdies with two bogeys before rounding off his day with a hat-trick of gains on his "favourite course". 

"Played solid today with a great finish with three birdies. I have also made three birdies on the par-three, so they were a bonus," said Kennedy, who finished no worse than a tied 22nd in his last three appearances from 2017 to 2019.

"My driver needs to improve as I hit it to fairway bunker quite often and it has cost me some scoring opportunities.

"Still working on my game and look forward to testing it again.

"It’s my favourite course of the season so great to be playing on the weekend."

Kennedy will be looking to contend again as he has been knocking on the door of a first title of the season, and fourth overall, but to no avail.

Kennedy last came close at the Heiwa PGM Championship, where he entered the final round in outright second but eventually settled for tied fifth to mark his fourth top-five finish of the year.

American Todd Baek, Younghan Song and Sanghee Lee of South Korea posted 71, 67 and 70 respectively to be bunched in joint 15th at one-under.

Starting from the 10th, Iwata bounced back superbly from two early bogeys in his opening three holes with six birdies, five of which from the outward nine to put himself in contention for a second win of the season.

Iwata won his fourth title at the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational Sega Sammy Cup earlier this year and he will be hoping to make it second this week.

He underlined his intention by tying for second at last week's Mynavi ABC Championship last week.

But Iwata knows he must overcome the challenging course if he wants to cross the finish line as a winner.

"I need to stabilize the shot a little more," he said.

"The greens here are difficult to approach as they are small and hilly."

Leading second-round scores:

(Japan unless stated)

132 - Hiroshi Iwata 66-66;

134 - Ryo Katsumata 67-67, Ryo Ishikawa 68-66, Taiga Semikawa 67-67;

135 - Naoto Nakanishi 64-71;

137 - Brad Kennedy (Aus) 71-66, Kenshiro Ikegami 69-68, Tomoyo Ikemura 69-68, Juvic Pagunsan (Phi) 66-71, Ryosuke Kinoshita 68-69, Chan Kim (US) 67-70, Rikuya Hoshino 72-65.