Tournament article

Casio World Open Golf Tournament 2023

Kanaya finds his way to the summit

Kanaya finds his way to the summit

Takumi Kanaya carded a flawless four-under-par 68 on Saturday, joining in a five-way tie for the lead after three rounds at the Casio World Open and boosting his hopes of staying in contention for the season-ending JGTO Money Rankings crown.

Kanaya's four-birdie round, including three secured from his opening four holes, propelled him to 10-under 206 at the Kochi Kuroshio Country Club, where he joined Yusaku Hosono, Taichi Nabetani, Kaito Onishi, and American Todd Baek, all signing for matching 68s.

Seeking his third victory of the season, Kanaya is in desperate need of claiming the ¥40,000,000 top prize to intensify his battle for the JGTO No. 1 title race with Keita Nakajima, bringing the competition right to next week's season finale, the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup in Tokyo.

Kanaya currently holds the second position on the money list with ¥122,548,999, trailing Nakajima who comfortably sits atop with ¥162,886,179.

Nevertheless, Nakajima remains firmly in contention this week, firing a 67 to head into the deciding day, sharing the ninth spot with Taiga Semikawa, who is just two shots back from the leaders.

Semikawa, placed third in the money list with ¥110,979,749, is the only other player still mathematically capable of overtaking Nakajima.

"I think the performance in the first half was really good. I believe I played well, hitting good shots. I made a few mistakes, but I managed to overcome them well. I'm happy that I could go bogey-free," said Kanaya.

"I think tomorrow is just about winning, so I want to prepare well for that and finish strong."

Nakajima, who brilliantly recorded six birdies against a solitary bogey, expressed his joy at delivering a robust performance in the 'crucial' penultimate round, providing him a genuine opportunity to contend for victory tomorrow.

A potential fourth triumph of the season would secure him the coveted Prize Money King title.

"Failing to enhance my score today would have made it challenging to maintain hopes of winning. If I can secure a favourable position in the second half tomorrow, my confidence will soar," remarked Nakajima, who carded 70 and 71 in the initial two rounds.

"Thus, I viewed improving my score today as the most pivotal element."

Baek, fueled by the hole-in-one recorded on the par-three, 225-yard third hole, surged into contention for the breakthrough JGTO victory he has longed for.

This week also represents Baek's final opportunity to break into the top 30 on the money list and secure a place in next week's JT Cup. He's currently positioned at No. 56.

"This might be my 20th (ace of my career). The most recent one, I believe, was at last year's Mizuno Open," Baek mentioned.

"Everyone, including myself, could see it go in. I'm genuinely delighted about it."

Eager to capitalise on the progress made, Baek has struggled to leave his mark this season, with a tied-sixth at the Panasonic Open being his best outing to date.

"This year has presented challenges for me, so finding myself in this position is truly uplifting. I aim to deliver my best golf tomorrow," he expressed.

"While winning is a significant goal, in golf, it's not something achievable solely through desire. My focus is on giving my absolute best."

Leading third round scores:

206: Yusaku Hosono 71-67-68, Takumi Kanaya 66-72-68, Taichi Nabetani 69-69-68, Kaito Onishi 68-70-68, Todd Baek (US) 66-72-68;

207: Ren Yonezawa 68-70-69, Eric Sugimoto, Ryu Hyun-woo (Kor) 66-69-72;

208: Park Sang-hyun (Kor) 70-71-67, Keita Nakajima 70-71-67, Taiga Semikawa 66-72-70.