Dunlop Phoenix Tournament 2022

Sato hits the front with compatriot Otsuki

Sato hits the front with compatriot Otsuki

Japanese pair Taihei Sato and Tomoharu Otsuki shared the one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on Friday but PGA Tour stars Tom Kim and Mito Pereira were well-positioned for the weekend in a share of third spot.

The 29-year-old Sato carded a three-under-par 68 after mixing five birdies with two bogeys Otsuki, 32, stole the thunder with a bogey-free 63 containing an eagle and six birdies as the duo edged ahead of a congested leaderboard at nine-under for the tournament.

Sato, who co-led the opening day with Pereira, is keeping both his feet firmly on the ground despite remaining on the summit.

During the Japan Players Championship by Sato Shokuhin earlier this year, Sato had also led at the halfway stage but he eventually ended the week in eighth place.

"I have learned from my past experience that I should not put too much thought into winning and rather taking it one day at a time," said Sato.

Sato certainly can't afford to get carried away with a trio of heavyweights comprising world number 15 Kim of South Korea, world number 46 Pereira of Chile and current JGTO money list leader Kazuki Higa on his heels.

Kim snared five birdies, including four on his front nine, on his way to a flawless 66 to join Pereira (69) and Higa (65) in a three-way tie for third at eight-under.

"I'm really satisfied because I managed another bogey-free round again today. It's nice to do it despite the strong winds,"

"It's great to be in contention. All I need do is to have a good game plan and stick to it."

Pereira recovered well from a bogey on the opening hole by making three gains on the sixth, seventh and 16th to keep himself firmly in contention.

"My putting could have been better, if I can fix it tomorrow, I have no doubts I can go low again," he said.

"This is a tournament with long and rich history and I'm happy to be part of it."

Another PGA Tour invitee, Carry Conners of Canada is just three shots off the pace after signing for a 69 to sit in an eight-way tie for sixth that include also Zimbabwe's Scott Vincent.

Vincent bounced back from a bogey on the first hole by shooting five birdies, including three in his last five, to post a 67.

Vincent will be aiming to win his second JGTO title of the season following his triumph at the Mizuno Open.

He holds the distinction of being the only international winner to date this season.

Leading second-round scores:

(Japan unless stated)

133 - Taihei Sato 65-68, Tomoharu Otsuki 70-63;

134 - Tom Kim 68-66, Kazuki Higa 69-65, Mito Pereira (Chi) 69-65;

136 - Yoshitaka Takeya 68-68, Ryosuke Kinoshita 67-69, Mikumu Horikawa 69-67, Satoshi Kodaira 68-68, Ryutaro Nagano  69-67, Corey Conners (Can) 67-69, Scott Vincent (Zim) 69-67, Rikuya Hoshino 66-70.