Hideki Matsuyama’s hopes of winning a second ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP title was blown off course on Friday but some familiar Japanese names emerged on the leaderboard after a wind-swept second round.
With gusts of up to 58kph at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, eight-time PGA TOUR winner Matsuyama stumbled to a disappointing 6-over 76 to trail second round leader Beau Hossler by 12 shots.
Hossler, chasing a maiden PGA TOUR victory, produced a stellar 65 in challenging conditions for a one-stroke lead over Justin Suh, who returned a 66 in the PGA TOUR’s lone event in Japan.
Satoshi Kodaira, who has one PGA TOUR win in 2018, brilliantly carded a 68 for solo third on 5-under, two off the lead, while compatriots Yuki Inamori (67/-4/T4), Mikumu Horikawa (72/-3/T8) and Ryo Ishikawa (69/-3/T8) made it a total of four Japanese players in the top 10 heading into the weekend rounds.
“I want to take this opportunity and do the best I can,” said Kodaira, who won the RBC Heritage five years ago but has not posted a top 10 in his previous 105 PGA TOUR starts.
“I was fortunate to get an opportunity from ZOZO (sponsor’s exemption) to play this week, so I’m very grateful. Obviously I want to gain as many points as I can and hopefully that will help me for next season.”
He is projected to move up from 185th to 129th on the FedExCup Fall ranking, with top 125 being exempt into Full-Field events and THE PLAYERS Championship on the PGA TOUR next season.
“I didn’t want to get too greedy with the wind, trying to gain enough distance when I could, but again, just not to be greedy. I just kept my cool throughout the round,” said 34-year-old Kodaira, who posted three birdies against a lone bogey.
Before the emergence of Matsuyama, Ishikawa, 32, was highly rated after he burst onto the scene as a teenage phenom where he played in two Presidents Cups in 2009 and 2011 and spent several seasons on the PGA TOUR with two career runner-up finishes. He is now an 18-time Japan Golf Tour winner but still dreams about finding his way back to the promise land in the U.S.
A win on Sunday will mean a two-year exemption onto the PGA TOUR.
“It’s the only PGA TOUR event in Japan. I’m very happy, I’m very excited. It’s been an exciting week so far,” said Ishikawa, who traded four birdies against three bogeys. “The important thing is just to play my golf, stick to my game. With that, I think it will put me in a good position to win.
“ It was very windy today. It’s something I’m not to, so I think it was overall just a tough round.”
World No. 6 Xander Schauffele, the highest ranked player in the field, battled to a 69 for tied fourth place, three back, while first round leader Collin Morikawa, who is a two-time major winner, carded a 73 to end the day in tied eighth place on 3-under with amongst others, defending champion Keegan Bradley who added a 70 to his opening 67.
Second-Round Notes – Friday, October 20, 2023
Weather: Partly cloudy. High of 79. Wind SW 20-30 mph with gusts up to 36 mph.
|1st||Beau Hossler||68||65||133 (-7)|
|2nd||Justin Suh||68||66||134 (-6)|
|3rd||Satoshi Kodaira||67||68||135 (-5)|
|T4||Emiliano Grillo||65||71||136 (-4)|
|T4||Yuki Inamori||69||67||136 (-4)|
|T4||Xander Schauffele||67||69||136 (-4)|
|T4||Eric Cole||65||71||136 (-4)|