Nakajima outduels Kanaya in battle of young Japanese superstars for second JGTO win

Keita Nakajima with the Trophy he won at the ASO Iizuka Challenged Golf Tournament. Pic- JGTO

Fukuoka, Japan , June 11: In a battle between two young Japanese golfers, who are on road to becoming global stars, Keita Nakajima, a runner-up in his last two starts, finally went one better as he was crowned the winner of the ASO Iizuka Challenged Golf Tournament after a dramatic finale on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Nakajima beat Takumi Kanaya, 25, with a birdie on the second playoff hole after overcoming a three-shot deficit at the start of the final round.

Nakajima closed with a seven-under-par 65 at the Aso Iizuka Golf Club to match Kanaya at 29-under-par 259. Kanaya, who led the first three rounds, finished with a bogey-free 68.

Nakajima was over the moon after bagging the second JGTO title of his career, but his first as a professional after joining the play-for-play ranks last year.
He was an amateur when he secured his maiden Tour win at the 2021 Panasonic Open.

“I feel so happy. Winning in the playoff against Kanaya-san after a fiercely-battled final day made the victory even sweeter. It was a feeling that can’t be expressed in words, ” said Nakajima, who came in runner-up at the Mizuno Open before finishing joint second again at last week’s BMW JGT Championship Mori Building Cup.

“No, it’s no different (than winning as an amateur). The outcome of the game doesn’t change, and I believe that the person who plays good golf will win, so it doesn’t change.

“After turning professional, I didn’t have a good performance for a while, and I saw players of my generation had won it before me.

Keita Nakajima cries after his win. Pic- JGO

“But I didn’t feel anxious at that time, and I believed that if I continued with my own golf, I could win. I was able to do it with the support and understanding from my family, trainers, coaches, and support staff.”

In regulation, a brilliant front-nine display saw Nakajima cancel out Kanaya’s three-shot advantage to ensure their two-horse race go down the wire.
Nakajima eagled the par-five opening hole and notched three more birdies on hole numbers three, seven and nine to draw level with Kanaya at 29-under-par.
Kanaya had early birdies on the first and third but could not make any headway.
Nakajima finally overtook Kanaya at the summit for the first time after making another gain on 12, but it wasn’t too long before the latter secured his long-awaited third birdie on 14 to put the contest back all square.
Nakajima quickly restored the lead when he birdied the 15th – but he would surrender his pole position once more after bogeying the 17th, the first shot he dropped for the week.

Kanaya capitalised on his playing partner’s misfortune to return to the top of the leaderboard.

Despite the late setback, Nakajima wasn’t going to give in just yet. As Kanaya settled for par at the last. Nakajima forced a shootout by rolling in a clutch birdie putt from 13 feet.

“It (the final day) felt long, and I was excited and thrilled. I was fired up all day long to contend for the title,” he said.

“I was prepared for a close battle, and I think I managed to put my heart into each swing, one swing at a time.”

Kanaya was philosophical after the defeat ended his hopes of attaining his career’s first back-to-back victories.

“To finish the four-day day tournament with 29-under-par, I’m quite satisfied with my overall performance. There’s nothing more I can say,” said Kanaya.

“Nakajima-san turned in a wonderful performance today. He played so well in the playoff, so credit to him and he truly deserved the victory.”

Round 3

Kanaya in sight of back-to-back wins

Takumi Kanaya… the Round 3 leader. Pic: JGTO

Fukuoka, Japan, June 10: Takumi Kanaya is in sight of back-to-back victories after preserving a three-shot lead following the third round ASO Iizuka Challenged Golf Tournament on Saturday.

An eight-under-par 64 took Kanaya to 25-under-par 191, three shots ahead of Keita Nakajima, who continued to trail his former national team senior closely after firing a sublime 63 at the Aso Iizuka Golf Club in Fukuoka.

The duo turned the contest into a two-horse race, with the quartet of Yosuke Tsukada (64), Kensei Hirata (65), Mikiya Akutsu (67) and Yujiro Ohori (67), who share third, are a whopping six shots adrift of Nakajima.

Kanaya brilliantly converted a birdie-putt from about 18 feet at the last hole, his ninth for the day, to put him on the brink of following up last week’s BMW JGT Championship Mori Building Cup, his first in more than two years and fourth overall on Tour.

Despite holding a three-shot lead, Kanaya is taking nothing for granted and is relishing yet another final-day battle with Nakajima.

Kanaya and Nakajima, both who were former world number one amateurs, are set to play together in the leaders’ flight for the third successive week, a stretch that started from the Gateway to the Open Mizuno Open.

While Kanaya finished third at the Mizuno Open and won last week, Nakajima had to settle for runner-up in both.

“I was able to play my best again, but Nakajima-san was just as impressive. He got not only a lot of birdies but an eagle too! I think we both bring out the best in each other,” said Kanaya, after marking his scorecard with nine birdies and one bogey.

“We’ve been playing together since our amateur days, I know Keita-kun is an athlete with high aspirations and are many aspects of his actions and attitude that I respect.

“So it wasn’t a surprise that both of us tee off once more in the final group for the third week running. I’m excited for tomorrow as well.”

Nakajima ensured he continue to pile the pressure on Kanaya by returning a bogey-free scorecard containing an angle on the par-five 12th and seven birdies.
“It’s not an easy task, but I think there’s certainly a chance to turn around the three-shot deficit. Of course, Kanaya-san is also human, and I think he feels some pressure. I want to play good golf and not give up until the end,” vowed Nakajima.

Juvic Pagunsan, the winner of the Partner Pro-Am Tournament last month, is the best-placed international player at the penultimate stage in tied-17th.

The 45-year-old shot an improved 67 to finish on 12-under-par 204, one ahead of South Korea’s Song Young-han, who carded 69 for tied-21st.

 Leading third round scores:

191: Takumi Kanaya 62-65-64;

194: Keita Nakajima 67-64-63;

200: Yosuke Tsukada 68-68-64, Kensei Hirata 69-66-65, Mikiya Akutsu 64-69-67, Yujiro Ohori 65-68-67;

201: Taiga Sugihara 66-71-64, Ryosuke Kinoshita 65-69-67;

202: Yuki Inamori 71-64-67.

Round 2 – Kanaya surges ahead with flawless 65

Takumi Kanaya-R2 leader. Pic: JGTO

Fukuoka, Japan , June 9: Takumi Kanaya moved four shots clear at the halfway stage of the ASO Iizuka Challenged Golf Tournament after another brilliant second-round 65 took him to 17-under-par for the tournament.

The 25-year-old’s brilliant seven-under-par effort at Aso Iizuka Golf Club on Friday featured a bogey-free scorecard containing seven birdies, including a hat-trick of gains on the last three holes.

Kanaya, buoyed from winning the BMW JGT Championship Mori Building Cup last Sunday, underlined his intention to make it two victories on the trot when he opened with a 10-under-par 62 on Thursday.

“Although my shots in the first half weren’t that good, I managed to improve my rhythm in the second half and was able to capitalise on many opportunities,” said Kanaya, who completed his front-nine with just two birdies.
“I wasn’t entirely sure what caused that (struggle with his shots), but I had to hit from the rough quite often. Despite that, I was able to get through the front nine without dropping a single bogey.”
Kanaya insisted that he was still in tip-top condition despite finding himself in contention for the third week running.
Prior to winning last week’s event, Kanaya also played well to finish third at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open.
“I had the chance to rest on Wednesday, and yesterday I finished in the morning, so I had plenty of time to rest,” he said.
“I’m feeling confident right now. By getting enough rest, it helped me to stay focused during play. I want to do my best for the remaining two days.”
With 36 holes remaining, Kanaya certainly can’t put his guard down just yet as his closest pursuer, Keita Nakajima has shot up to second following a superb 64 to reach 13-under-par.
Nakajima proved why he’s one of the men with the hottest form in recent weeks, with two runner-up finishes in the last two outings, by impressing with six birdies and an eagle on the par-five 17th.
“I didn’t really think about catching up with Kanaya-san today. Golf is played over four days, so my intention is to play well to be in a good position on the final day,” he said.
“Being in contention for the win in the final group on the final day is the most important thing.”
Unheralded 26-year-old Ryo Okamura fired a second straight 66 to sit alone in third at 12-under-par, one ahead of the quartet of Yujiro Ohori (68), Mikiya Akutsu (69), Koumei Oda (65) and Taichi Nabetani.
American Todd Baek will head into the weekend as the best-placed international player in a share for 10th on nine-under-par 135 after following his first-round 69 with an-improved 66.

Leading second round scores:
127: Takumi Kanaya 62-65;
131: Keita Nakajima 67-64;
132: Ryo Okamura 66-66;
133: Yujiro Ohori 65-68, Mikiya Akutsu 64-69, Koumei Oda 68-65, Taichi Nabetani 67-66;
135: Ryosuke Kinoshita 65-69, Shunya Takeyasu 70-64;
135: Yuki Inamori 71-64, Kensei Hirata 69-66, Yoshikazu Haku 68-67, Yuta Ikeda 70-65, Yuta Uetake 68-67, Todd Baek 69-66, Taiga Semikawa 66-69.

Round One – In-form Kanaya takes pole position

Takumi Kanaya… leader after R1. Pic: JGTO

Fukuoka, Japan , June 08: Takumi Kanaya picked up where he left off last week by firing a 10-under-par 62 to seize the opening-round lead of the ASO Iizuka Challenge Golf Tournament in Fukuoka on Thursday.

Fresh off a wire-to-wire victory at the BMW Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup, the 25-year-old recorded a whopping 11 birdies – six on the front nine and five on the back nine – to offset a lone bogey, leading by two shots from Mikiya Akutsu and Katsumasa Miyamoto at the Aso Iizuka Golf Club.

Kanaya launched his hunt for a fifth JGTO title with all guns blazing, opening with a birdie on the 10th hole of the back-nine. He then picked up further gains on holes 12, 13, 15, 16, and 18 to turn in 36.

Kanaya continued his red-hot streak on the inward-nine with a hat trick of birdies starting from the first hole.

He finally dropped his first shot of the day, two-putting for a bogey on the par-three fifth, but that hardly dampened his spirit.

He finished the day in style with two more birdies on holes seven and nine.

“My shots were in great condition, and my putting was also on point. Being able to hit the fairway gave me more opportunities, and that translated into a good score,” said Kanaya, who hit 10 fairways throughout the day.

“I wasn’t really thinking about the score. I was able to play well for the most part, and all I wanted was to get a lot of birdies.

“Eventually, I also dropped a bogey on the back nine, but I responded well to finish with two more birdies. I’m very pleased with that.”

“I’ve been playing well for the past two weeks, so I hope to ride on the good confidence and look forward to another good result this week.”

Leading for the fifth consecutive round, Kanaya will be aiming to maintain his position at the top as he seeks a career-first back-to-back victory.

The last player to achieve this feat was Shugo Imahira when he won the Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup and Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament.

Last week’s joint runner-up, Song Young-han of South Korea, and 15-time JGTO winner Brendan Jones of Australia were the best-placed international players, tied for 16th after returning matching scores of 68.
Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament winner Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines, American Todd Baek, and Australia’s Dylan Perry are one shot further back, tied for 29th.

Leading first round scores:

62: Takumi Kanaya;

64: Mikiya Akutsu, Katsumasa Miyamoto;

65: Yujiro Ohori, Ryosuke Kinoshita, Takahira Hataji;

66: Ryo Okamura, Taiga Semikawa, Taiga Sugihara;

67: Taichi Nabetani, Hideto Tanihara, Tomoyasu Sugiyama, Kosuke Sunagawa, Keita Nakajima, Kaigo Tamaki.


Vinkmag ad

Read Previous

Dagar misses cut, while bogey free Sharma makes the weekend

Read Next

Pranavi best at 25th as all three Indians make cut on Epson Tour

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *