Kanaya hopes to make it two in a row

Kanaya hopes to make it two in a row

Muscat: Japan's Takumi Kanaya begins the defence of his International Series Oman title today at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat -- aiming to do "exactly the same" as his breakthrough victory 12 months ago.

In what was a week of many firsts at the inaugural International Series Oman for the Japanese star he recorded a fine four-shot win, for his maiden professional victory overseas.

It also marked the first time that an International Series event had been won by a player from Japan, and surprisingly he became the first golfer from his country to win an Asian Tour event outside of Japan since Tetsuji Hiratsuka claimed the Black Mountain Masters in 2010.

The 25-year-old from Hiroshima, said: "In 2023, I lined up against some of the best players in the world and proved that I could win. This year I want to do exactly the same. Defending my title will not be easy against this strong field, but I know I have what it takes on a truly challenging course."

A veritable feast of phenomenal players is competing in what is the first of 10 International Series events this season, at what is the second top of the year on the Asian Tour, following last week's Malaysian Open.

Last week's champion David Puig from Spain, and his compatriot Eugenio Chacarra, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Chileans Joaquin Niemanna and Mito Pereira, plus India's Anirban Lahiri are just a few of the glittering names from the LIV Golf League playing along with a plethora of Asian Tour stars like Filipino Miguel Tabuena, Hong Kong's Taichi Kho and Jazz Janewattananond from Thailand in the tournament.

Kanaya, world ranked 129, has been paired in one of the marquee groups along with two other standouts Denwit Boriboonsub from Thailand and Australian Lucas Herbert -- who is making his debut on The International Series.

The stunning scenic coastline of Al Mouj Golf provided the perfect background for some brilliant front running golf by Kanaya last season.

"It is an honour to win the event, an International Series tournament," said Kanaya at the time, after what was his first success since April of 2021 when he won the Token Homemate Cup, on the Japan Tour.

Since his success last year, still no Japanese player has won on the Asian Tour or The International Series.

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