Had it not been for runaway winner Ryo Ishikawa, New Zealand’s Michael Hendry would have found himself in a three-way playoff for the Japan Tour’s Rizak KBC Augusta title in 2016.
Hendry finished T2 at the Keya Golf Club last year alongside Brad Kennedy and Tadahiro Takayama but the trio were a full five strokes adrift of the local superstar Ishikawa.
Hendry will be hoping to go one better this week when he returns to the Fukuoka prefecture for a tournament that has proved to his liking in the past, his runner-up finish the third time in the top 12 in four appearances.
Currently second best of the Australasians on the Order of Merit, Hendry has the opportunity to put some distance between himself and next best Todd Sinnott this week, the pair holding down 19th and 20th positions respectively but Sinnott not in the field.
Brad Kennedy, also not playing this week, is the best of the Down Under campaigners at 12th in the standings though Hendry would likely need to win to overtake the Queenslander.
Seven Australians join the Kiwi in the field, Adam Bland making the long trek back after a fruitful week in Fiji while Brendan Jones, Matt Griffin Won Joon Lee, David Bransdon and Aaron Townsend are also teeing up.
Bland’s final round at Natadola Bay will see him start the week confident after he leapfrogged 21 players with a brilliant Sunday 65.
It has been a steady year for the South Australian in Japan without being spectacular, two top 10 finishes offset by two missed cuts in his 10 outings to date though one of those top 10s earned him a trip to Royal Birkdale for the Open.
A one-time winner on the Tour, Bland looks in the sort of form that could be dangerous and it would be no surprise if he were to contend this week.
Also making the long haul flight back from Fiji are Brendan Jones, Aaron Townsend and David Bransdon, Jones coming off a missed cut while Bransdon posted a T24 finish with consistent scoring around the Natadola Bay layout.
Townsend played nicely over the opening two rounds to make the cut but struggled on the weekend to slip down the leaderboard.
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