Tournament article

Japan Open Golf Championship 2023

Nakajima shows the way with Sadakata

Nakajima shows the way with Sadakata

Keita Nakajima, seeking his Japan Open title, birdied three of his last six holes to move into a tie for the lead with veteran Akio Sadakata after Friday's second round of the Japan Open Golf Championship in Osaka.

The 23-year-old, who's already a three-time Tour winner, carded a modest one-under-par 70 on the tricky West Course of the Ibaraki Country Club.

Sadakata matched Nakajima's effort to join him in pole position with his two-day total of four-under 136, just one shot ahead of seven players in joint third, which included two-time winner Yuki Inamori, Ryo Ishikawa, and Australian Brad Kennedy, all returning matching 69s.

Nakajima would be relieved to have battled back from a difficult start, which saw him concede a bogey at the first hole before dropping another on the eighth.

He regained a shot by birdieing the ninth, but he gave away a third bogey of the day on 12.

Nakajima, however, fought back gallantly with birdies on 13, 15, and 16, and it proved enough for him to ascend to the top of the congested leaderboard.

"Starting with a bogey wasn't ideal, but I'm proud of how I persevered," said Nakajima, who's currently second on the JGTO money list.

"I was determined not to fall into a pattern of consecutive bogeys. The close shave at the second hole was concerning, but I managed to save par.

"The birdie from the rough on the ninth, especially under tough conditions, truly shifted the game's momentum in my favour. It felt like a hard-earned one-under.

"With bad weather expected on the last day, everyone will be trying to get better scores tomorrow. My aim for tomorrow is to position myself to be in the running for victory during the final day's last five holes."

JGTO veteran Sadakata could be on his way to securing a long-awaited victory, and a coveted one, if he keeps his fine run of performance going over the next 36 holes.

The 44-year-old made his debut in 2008 and has amassed in excess of ¥220,000,000 in career earnings but has yet to record a win.

Sadakata also finished with a flourish, birdieing his last two holes to wrap up a scorecard containing four birdies against three bogeys.

"It's a major tournament and a significant title. Given that I'm unseeded this year, I'm keen on performing well," said the father of four.

"I want to give my best, not just because it's a major but for other reasons as well. I'm committed to putting in my best efforts tomorrow and the day after.

"I'll maintain my strategy and stick to my daily game plan, always ensuring I stay composed."

Being just one shot back at the halfway stage, Inamori, who won in 2018 and 2020, does not want to get carried away and think too much about the third win.

"It's too early to get ahead of myself. Everyone has a chance, so I won't let my guard down," vowed Inamori, who's also vying to make it back-to-back victories following last week's ACN Championship win.

South Africa's Shaun Norris also put himself back on track after a poor opening 72. He posted a superb 66 to give himself a shot at reclaiming the title he won in 2019.

However, it was the end of the road for Adam Scott as a second successive 73 saw him miss the top-60 cut by just one shot.

Leading second round scores:

136: Akio Sadakata 67-69, Keita Nakajima 67-69;

137: Yuta Uetake 68-69, Kohei Okada (am) 66-71, Takahiro Hataji 70-67, Ryo Ishikawa 69-69, Kota Kaneko 67-70, Brad Kennedy (Aus) 68-70;

138: Mikumu Horikawa 66-72, Shaun Norris (Rsa) 72-66, Tomoharu Otsuki 69-69, Tatsunori Shogenji 69-69.