Fukuoka, Japan – Zimbabwean Scott Vincent stayed on course for a successful title defence at the Sansan KBC Augusta, reaching the halfway stage in a four-way tie for the lead on Friday.
The 30-year-old birdied four of his last seven holes on the way to a brilliant six-under-par 66 to finish on 11-under 133 at the Keya Golf Club.
The other three players sharing pole position were Taiga Nagano (67), Sang Hee Lee (65) and Riki Kawamoto (67).
Overnight leader Taisei Shimizu dropped to tied-11th after he could only muster an even-par 72, no thanks to three consecutive bogeys from the 15th.
Vincent, who won last year’s title for his breakthrough victory on the JGTO, began the day two shots off the pace and made his move by picking up two shots at the second and sixth holes.
He conceded his only shot of the day bogeying the par-four seventh, but would make up for it at the ninth hole to turn in 34.
Vincent then launched his surge up the leaderboard with four late birdies, including at the last to earn a share of the lead.
Lee impressed with the day’s low round of 65 after producing a bogey-free round with seven birdies.
Lee, who previously shot a 63 in the 2019 edition en route to finishing tied-sixth, has yet to taste success on JGTO.
“I hit the driver very good today. A good tee shot will lead to a good score on this course,” said the 30-year-old Lee.
“It’s a difficult course, but I like it and relish the challenge.”
Australia’s Brad Kennedy continued to show that he’s one of the most consistent players on Tour when he signed for a 66 to be just one shot off the leaders in outright fifth.
Kennedy, who has not missed a single cut in nine outings to date, made a superb start from the 10th tee by making six birdies in his first 10 holes before parring the remaining ones to improve significantly from joint 23rd.
“It was a great first 10 holes including three up-and-down from bunker on 13, 16 and 17,” said the 48-year-old, who’s bidding to win his fourth JGTO title.
“Played solid on the front-nine, just missed two five-footers on 5 and 6 and which stopped the momentum.
“From then I just didn’t get it close enough and made pars in. Nice to be there again and just continue to put myself in position.
“I’m only gauging myself on the performance criteria I have set and I know if I’m able to reach them then it’s possible.”
Kennedy has two top-three finishes on this course having finished joint runner-up in 2016 and joint third in 2015.
“Playing well around Keya before does help but since then there have been a few changes to the course,” he said.