30 Nov 2023 | Professional golf |

Aussies on Tour: Kennedy's claim to JT Cup crown

by Tony Webeck

Brad Kennedy practices ahead of JT Cup in Japan.
Brad Kennedy is seeking to go one better than his runner-up finish in 2019 at this week's JT Cup in Tokyo. Photo: JGTO Images

A season wracked early by illness and injury can end on the highest note possible when Brad Kennedy contests the finale to the 2023 Japan Golf Tour, the Golf Japan Series JT Cup in Tokyo.

Currently 25th on the prize money ranking in Japan, Kennedy was the only Australian to qualify for the 30-man tournament worth ¥130,000,000 ($A1.392m).

It was not a position the 49-year-old imagined himself in earlier in the year when he contracted COVID and then had to miss eight weeks due to an injury incurred in his first event of the year.

It wasn’t until the ACN Championship in October where Kennedy began to find his rhythm, his renowned consistency delivering a string of good results.

Following a tied 12th position in that event, he secured three additional top-six finishes in the next four appearances, including a notable joint third in the Japan Open.

These results were pivotal in propelling him into the top 30 and securing his ninth appearance in the JT Cup.

“To be honest, it’s been really tough,” Kennedy said of his 2023 campaign.

“At the start of the year, I got COVID and then I got injured in the first event as well.

“I played a couple of events after that with my injury and then it just got too bad that I took time off and sort of had eight weeks off.“

It wasn’t really until I got back in the second half of the season, sort of from KBC, that I actually felt like I’d started the season. That sort of gave me a limited chance to try and achieve what I wanted to.

“And it was just a bit of a rebuild mentally, physically, trying to get my swing back and not worry too much about the injury and just go play golf again.

“The Japan Open was the real change in the season, where it’s just such a difficult golf course that I knew, just play a little bit smart, stay patient. And my game the week before at ACN had come back, so those two weeks were real keys.

“Since then, I’ve been able to keep those thoughts going, keep the momentum going, and sort of stand here again at the JT Cup.

“You sort of wonder how, but at the same time, it’s great to be here.”

Runner-up to Ryo Ishikawa in the JT Cup in 2019, Kennedy is not put off by his status as the oldest player in the field.

In fact, he believes in a week such as this, it can be to his advantage.

“There’s a great younger generation coming through and I think I’m the oldest by about five years playing this week,” said Kennedy.

“But it’s a tough course, it’s a scorable course and I think it suits my game also.

“And I’ve sort of had success here before. Haven’t won, but I think this has allowed me to make sure that I’m doing the right things and sort of staying relevant.”

Another 49-year-old looking to make this week count is Michael Wright.Early in the second round, the Queenslander is leading First Stage of PGA TOUR Champions Q School in California.

Due to turn 50 in February, Wright shot 7-under 65 to lead by four shots after Round 1, Victorian Cameron Percy fourth after a round of 70.

There are also LPGA Tour cards up for grabs this week at the six-round LPGA Q-Series.

After narrowly missing out on promotion via the Epson Tour, Robyn Choi will lead the way alongside West Australian Hira Naveed, Victorian Su Oh and Kiwi Amelia Garvey.

Round 1 tee times AEDT

Japan Golf Tour Golf Japan Series JT Cup Tokyo Yomiuri Country Club, Tokyo 11:50am          Yuta Kinoshita, Takashi Ogiso, Brad Kennedy

Defending champion: Hideto Tanihara Past Aussie winners: Paul Sheehan (2004), Brendan Jones (2007)

Asian Tour Taiwan Glass Taifong Open Taifong Golf Club, Taiwan 10:15am*         Bongsub Kim, Douglas Klein, Chang Tse-yu 2:30pm            Poom Saksansin, Hung Chien-yao, Todd Sinnott 3pm                 Ajeetesh Sandhu, Nicholas Fung, Terry Pilkadaris

Defending champion: Inaugural event Past Aussie winners: Nil

PGA TOUR Hero World Challenge Albany Golf Club, Albany, Bahamas 4:03am            Jason Day, Collin Morikawa

Defending champion: Viktor Hovland Past Aussie winners: Nil TV times: Live 5:30am-8:30am Friday, Saturday; Live 4am-9am Sunday; Live 3:30am-8:30am Monday on Fox Sports 503 and Kayo.

LPGA Tour Q-Series RTJ Magnolia Grove, Mobile, Alabama 12:52am          Maddie McCrary, Hira Naveed, Yu Jin Sung 1:25am            Trichat Cheenglab, Robyn Choi, Clariss Guce 2:20am            Nicole Broch Estrup, Karen Chung, Amelia Garvey (NZ) 2:31am            Su Oh, Jiaze Sun, Yuri Yoshida

PGA TOUR Champions 2024 PGA TOUR Champions Qualifying First Stage Soboba Springs Soboda Springs Golf Club, California Round 1 scores 1          Michael Wright            65 4          Cameron Percy             70 T5        Stephen Allan               71 T17      David Bransdon           73 T33      John Wade                   75

Legends Tour Vinpearl DIC Legends Vietnam Vinpearl Resort Nha Trang, Vietnam 11:20am*         Peter Fowler, Niclas Fasth, Do Toan Thang 12:50pm          Michael Campbell (NZ), Michael Jonzon, Nguyen Anh Minh

Defending champion: Inaugural event Past Aussie winners: Nil

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