Brad Kennedy today – photo Japan Golf Tour

Australian Brad Kennedy, a four-time Japan Golf Tour event winner, fired a seven-under-par 63 to seize a two-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament at Toride Kokusai Golf Club in Ibaraki on Friday.

The 47-year-old built on his sizzling opening 61 by marking his scorecard with eight birdies, including four successive ones, starting at the par-four eighth, and one bogey on the East Course to leap into the lead on 16-under-par 124.

Yuta Ikeda, who began the tournament with a magical 59, recovered from a roller coaster day to post a 67 to share second on 126 with last year’s joint-runner-up Tomoharu Matsuki, who also impressed with a 64 on the West Course.

Sho Nagasawa sparkled with a bogey-free 62 to be tied for fourth at five shots off the pace with Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe (64).

Kennedy swiftly picked up where he left off yesterday by notching seven birdies in his opening 14 holes. He dropped his only bogey of the day on the 15th but swiftly redeemed himself on the 17th hole.

“It’s always tricky after a good start and try to back it up. I got off to a nice start with birdies on three and four,” said Kennedy.

“Being able to get early birdies after a good start allows you to relax a bit and play really nice through the middle of the day. I made four birdies in a row from eight through 11.

“The 15 was really a tough par-four. I took my medicine there and could really get up and down the bunker. But I still understood what was available. I hit nice shots on 16 and also on 17, which I made a birdie there.

“I definitely didn’t expect to be 16-under after two days, but there’s a lot of good stuff there, and I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Having last won his fourth JGTO at the 2018 Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup, Kennedy hopes to capitalise on the two-shot advantage to help secure a long-overdue victory.

But to get there, Kennedy believes he can’t afford to play it safe and need to approach the weekend aggressively.

“There’s a lot to play for at the weekend. The course can produce very low scores,” he noted.

“Fairways are a premium here, and you got to be spot on. The greens are holding it nicely, so there’s plenty of pins to attack, and everyone will do the same in the weekend.”

“So, you can’t really stay where you are and have to keep going forward. It’s important to maintain self-control and, at the same time, be aggressive.