Takumi Kanaya, one of Japan’s most exciting young prospects, made the most of slightly easier conditions in the morning to take the halfway lead in the US$2 million International Series Oman today.
The world’s former number one ranked amateur shot a one-under-par 71 to reach four under par for the tournament, an unassailable lead with the wind getting progressively stronger and blowing the field off course at Al Mouj Golf.
Another up and coming Japanese player Ryo Hisatsune, who also competed in the morning, is one shot back after carding a 70. They were two of only nine players to break par on a truly testing day.
Scores soared in the afternoon with wind speeds close to 30 km per hour at times – in what is the second event of the season on the Asian Tour and the first of 10 International Series tournaments.
Canada’s Yonggu Shin, who led after the opening round with a 66, came in with a 76 to share third with Chilean Joaquin Niemann, Australia’s Zach Murray and Berry Henson from the United States.
Niemann showed his class by firing a 70 in the afternoon while Murray and Henson, who also played later, returned rounds of 72 and 73 respectively.
Kanaya is known for being a precision iron player and had to rely on that and more in order to overcome today’s turbulent conditions.
“Today was a tough day, the breeze was very strong. But yeah, I’m feeling great, I shot 71 and that’s good score,” said Kanaya.
“I like ball control, it’s my favorite, so yeah I have a chance. Two more days so I will do my best.”
The 24 year old turned professional two years ago after a sensational amateur career, which saw him ranked the number one amateur in the world for 55 weeks, during which time he won the Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Tour. He has since triumphed twice on that Tour as a professional, most noticeably at the prestigious Dunlop Phoenix in 2020.
He traded four birdies against three bogeys, while Hisatsune made six birdies and four bogeys.
Hisatsune is also another of his country’s great hopes trying to make an impression internationally. He also joined the professional game three years ago and won three titles on Japan’s secondary circuit in 2021.
He said: “It was so tough even though I had an early start, but for me it’s so windy. I made a lot of clutch putts today and I made birdies on every par three, so I’m very happy with the game.
“My strong point is the driver, like I hit almost every fairway so that makes it easier to hit the second shots. But it was so difficult in this wind.”
Shin failed to make a birdie today but is still very much in contention.
“It is a totally different course compared to yesterday,” said the Canadian.
“I knew the wind was gonna pick up, definitely going to be tough, but the pins are also tough today. I mean, greens are firmer than yesterday, obviously I was playing in the morning yesterday, this afternoon the pins were very difficult out there especially with this wind.”
Niemann has put himself in a strong position heading into the weekend and will be one of the favourites with a style of play capable of handling the wind.
He said: “It was a really good round. I played really well. I probably could have actually scored even better but there were a couple of short putts I missed. Very happy though, conditions were tough so can’t complain with two under. The wind was blowing, the greens were firm so I’m happy.”
He was paired with Spaniard Sergio Garcia today, a close friend.
“You want to see him [Sergio] playing well, as well as yourself so it is always fun playing with Sergio,” said Niemann.
“We have played a lot of practice rounds together but it is nice to have tournament rounds as it is different to practice rounds. He didn’t play his best golf today but Sergio is Sergio, so I need to keep an eye on him over the weekend!”
Garcia made triple on the fourth hole and worked hard to stay in the hunt but shot a 76 and is three off the lead along with Thailand’s Itthipat Buranatanyarat (71), Australian Todd Sinnott (73), American Andy Ogletree (75), and Sadom Kaewkanjana (76) from Thailand.