Takumi Kanaya on threshold of first overseas victory at International Series Oman

Takumi Kanaya of Japan pictured during Round Three on Saturday February 11, 2023 at the US$2 million International Series Oman at Al Mouj Golf, Muscat, Oman. The tournament is being held from February 9-12, 2023. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

Takumi Kanaya continued to put together one of his most impressive performances outside of Japan today when he took the third-round lead in the US$2 million International Series Oman at Al Mouj Golf.

The Japanese star led at the start of the day by one shot from compatriot Ryo Hisatsune and that is how it finished today after they both returned five-under-par 67s. Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana, such an ever-present name on the leaderboard for the past year on the Asian Tour, also shot 67 to sit in third place, three back from the leader.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Niemann from Chile moved ominously into fourth, four off top spot, after rounds of 68 and 69 respectively.

Kanaya showed why so much is expected of him today with an exceptional round that showed he is comfortable leading from the front. Enjoying calmer conditions compared with the strong winds of Friday, the 24 year old moved to nine under for the tournament, helped by a brilliant run of four birdies in five holes from the eighth. He made six birdies in total and just one bogey.

Surprisingly he missed a four-foot putt for birdie on 17 and another makeable birdie putt on the last. “I feel good, it is because this course really suits me,” said Kanaya. “I am able to play my shots, find the fairways, and find the greens. Will just take it shot by shot tomorrow.”

The Japanese star, with the distinctive golf swing and quick follow through, has won three times on the Japan Tour – the 2019 Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters, as an amateur, the 2020 Dunlop Phoenix and the Token Homemate Cup in 2020 – but is looking for his maiden professional title overseas.

He was one of his country’s most successful amateurs having claimed the 2015 Japan Amateur, the Asia Pacific Amateur in 2018, and the team gold medal at the Asian Games that year. He was also ranked first on the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 55 weeks.

Hisatsune, who is looking for his first big Tour win, is four years younger than Kanaya and looking forward to playing with his decorated compatriot tomorrow. He said: “Yeah, I respect my older friend, we’re both Japanese and I’m so happy to play with him.  Yeah, so happy to get both of us playing together and making a lot of birdies. Today was great, I feel like I was smart in my game management.”

Sadom was fourth in last week’s season-opening PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers and will no doubt be a threat tomorrow. “Today was pretty good for me, I hit more fairways than the last two rounds,” said the Thai star, whose last win on the Asian Tour was the Singapore Open at the beginning of last year.

“I missed only one fairway today and I had many chances to make birdie. I played solid and my putting was also good today. Today I think it was easier, because yesterday the wind was strong and it was hard to hit the greens and today I think my putting was much better than yesterday and that was the key.”

Garcia bounced back well today after yesterday’s 76 – which considering the windy conditions was more like par for the course. “Obviously, today it was windy, but it wasn’t as windy as yesterday,” said Garcia.

“Yesterday a couple of holes kind of killed my round really. Other than that, I felt good. I played nicely today, gave myself a lot of chances. Made some really good putts, some went in, and some lipped out but really happy. It was important to put a good score out there today to have a chance tomorrow.”

A six-time winner on the Asian Tour, he is trying to win for the first time on the circuit since the 2018 Singapore Open. He added: “I don’t know, we will see. It is going to depend a bit on the weather and whether the wind picks up. We will see what the leaders finish tonight, it is looking like I could be two or three shots behind, so it is definitely going to take another good round. Hopefully I can shoot another good one and we will see what happens.”

Two-time Australian Open champion Matt Jones fired a 67 to finish on three under to give himself an outside chance on Sunday.  The Australian is an expert playing in the wind and will hope for it to blow tomorrow.


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