Waiting game over as Aussies rejoin Japan Golf Tour

A 16-month exile ends for seven Aussies this week as they make their return to the Japan Golf Tour needing to make up lost ground on the moneylist of a wraparound 2020/2021 season that ends in December.

Not since Brad Kennedy lost in a playoff to Ryo Ishikawa at the 2019 Golf Nippon Series JT Cup has an Australian appeared in an event on Japanese soil, the COVID-19 pandemic decimating the majority of the 2020 schedule.

Four events that Australian players did not have government approval to play in were conducted at the end of 2020 and late visa approvals meant that they spent last week’s Token Homemate Cup watching from their hotel rooms in quarantine.

Coached by Australian PGA Professional Gareth Jones, last week’s winner Takumi Kanaya sits atop the moneylist with earnings already of ¥55,895,000, Matthew Griffin the only Aussie to have banked any cash courtesy of his tie for 41st at the co-sanctioned SMBC Singapore Open last January.

It puts them at a disadvantage but with 24 events still scheduled for the remainder of 2021 there is time in which to make their way up the moneylist and maintain their status for 2022.

Since his narrow loss to Ishikawa more than a year ago Kennedy has extended the golden period of the later years of his career.

The 46-year-old Queenslander added a second New Zealand Open title last March, made his maiden appearances in PGA TOUR and World Golf Championships events, won the inaugural tournament of The Players Series and claimed the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit crown.

Although two weeks spent cooped up in a hotel room is perhaps not ideal preparation, Kennedy can tap into some positive memories from his victory in the Kansai Open Golf Championship in 2013, albeit it at a different golf course.

Now boasting ¥428,486,406 ($A5,131,886 approx.) in career prize money in Japan, Kennedy has finished inside the top five in the event four times since his victory eight years ago but will be getting his first look at Arima Royal Golf Club, the Royal Course hosting for the first time since 1985.

Griffin enjoyed a consistent start to the year in Australia without ever really contending, logging four top-25 finishes in six starts with his best result a tie for eighth at the ISUZU Queensland Open in February.

Anthony Quayle is another returning to Japan this week with strong showings under his belt this year, finishing tied for fifth in the defence of his 2020 Queensland Open title and tied for seventh at the Victorian PGA Championship at Moonah Links.

Victorian Todd Sinnott will hope to hit the ground running having played only five events with world rankings points attached since the end of 2018 while Adam Bland, David Bransdon, Dylan Perry and Kiwi Michael Hendry will seek a strong start in what shapes as a busy season ahead.

Round 1 tee times AEST

Japan Golf Tour
Kansai Open Golf Championship
Arima Royal Golf Club (Royal Cse), Hyogo
8.30am Brad Kennedy, Nakazawa Daiki (a), Rikuya Hoshino
8.40am*              Adam Bland, Shuhei Shimoke (a), Yuta Kinoshita
9.30am*              Anthony Quayle, Min-Gyu Cho, Akio Sadakata
9.40am Dylan Perry, Yusuke Sakamoto, Yuwa Kosaihira
9.50am Todd Sinnott, Yuta Yoshikuwa, Masatsugu Fujishima
12.50pm              Matthew Griffin, Daichi Sato, Tomohiro Ishikaza
1.40pm David Bransdon, Ryo Ochiai (a), Hiroshi Iwata
1.50pm Michael Hendry, Masayuki Yamashita (a), Chan Kim

Defending champion: Tomoharu Otsuki (2019)
Past Aussie winners: Brad Kennedy (2013)
Top Aussie prediction: Brad Kennedy

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