BMW Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup 2024

Kanaya in prime position for a successful title defence

Kanaya in prime position for a successful title defence

Takumi Kanaya brilliantly birdied his last two holes to keep his title defence bid alive at the BMW Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup.

Kanaya mixed five birdies with two bogeys for a three-under-par 68, joining Takashi Ogiso and Hiroshi Iwata in a three-way tie for the lead after the third round at the Shishido Hills Country Club on Saturday.

The trio reached the 54-hole mark at 10-under 203, which gave them a one-shot lead over Kohei Okada, who carded a 67.

Kanaya began the day just one shot behind halfway-stage leader Yuki Inamori, but he made up the ground with a late charge featuring five birdies on the back nine.

Iwata kept himself in the hunt with a 67, trading five birdies against a single bogey. The 43-year-old will be hoping to improve on his joint runner-up finish from last year.

Ogiso, in pursuit of his first JGTO victory, impressed with a flawless 66, giving himself another shot at the title after failing to convert an earlier opportunity at The Crowns last month.

The 27-year-old headed into the final round as the sole leader but ultimately finished in a tie for third.

Kanaya was delighted to recover strongly in the second half of the day and put himself in position to become the first player to win two consecutive editions.

"I didn't play well on the front nine, but I stayed true to my game and finished with two consecutive birdies, which I believe increased my chances of winning," said Kanaya.

"Rather than focusing on back-to-back wins, my main goal is just to win.”

After charging into a share of the lead, Iwata is looking to seize the opportunity and claim his first JGTO major victory.

Despite having five Tour titles, Iwata has yet to win a major tournament. He's taking to heart the words of 20-time JGTO champion Toru Taniguchi, who urged him to secure a major win.

"Taniguchi-san told me this year that I should win a major. It wasn't something I was overly focused on, but perhaps it's time I give it more consideration," said Iwata.

Starting the day three shots behind, Ogiso ignited his round with birdies on his opening three holes and continued his momentum with additional birdies on the sixth and final holes.

Ogiso stressed the importance of his strong start in building the confidence required to tackle the course, particularly the challenging trio of holes starting from the seventh.

"Starting strong is key at Shishido Hills because it can be a tough day if you don't. Securing four birdies early on, before I hit the difficult stretch from the seventh to the ninth, really settled me down," Ogisoexplained.

"By the time I reached the back nine, I was content even without additional birdies, but fortunately, I managed to finish with a birdie, which was a good way to close the round."

Leading third round scores:

203: Takashi Ogiso 69-68-66, Hiroshi Iwata 71-65-67, Takumi Kanaya 66-69-68;

204: Kohei Okada 69-68-67;

205: Tomoyo Ikemura 69-70-66, Kensei Hirata 67-72-66, Ren Yonezawa 67-70-68, Taisei Shimizu 70-65-70, Taiga Semikawa 69-66-70;

206: Kodai Ichihara 70-69-67, Shugo Imahira 71-67-68, Aguri Iwasaki 67-70-69, Yuki Inamori.