TOKYO: Yuta Ikeda (pic) put himself in a strong position to end a string of runner-up finishes as he blitzed his way to a nine-under 62 to grab the opening-round lead at the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open yesterday.
With the home crowd behind him, the Japanese opened up a two-shot lead over five of his compatriots at the Higashi Hirono Golf Club including veteran Hiroyuki Fujita, a two-time Asian Tour winner.
Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines, Jeev Milkha Singh of India, a two-time number one in Asia, and Thailand's Chinnarat Phadungsil carded matching 67s for 11th place.
The US$1.9 million (RM5.9 million) tournament is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
Ikeda, who finished tied sixth at the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic on the Asian Tour in April, played bridesmaid in the last three weeks in Japan but he is fired-up to finally win his first title this season.
"I will give myself 80 or 90 points for my round. I was really close in the last three weeks but I'm still proud with what I achieved," Ikeda, 26, a nine-time winner in Japan, told the Asian Tour.
At the age of 46, Fujita is showing no signs of slowing down. He has won three titles on home soil this season, including one last week, and is on track for a fourth victory after riding on a hot putter.
"This is the best I've putted this year," he said. "This is a difficult golf course but I was expecting to do well."
Leading scores, 1st rd (Japan unless stated): 62 Yuta Ikeda; 64 Katsumasa Miyamoto, Koumei Oda, Yusaku Miyazato, Hiroyuki Fujita, Kazuhiro Yamashita; 65 Kim Do Hoon (Kor); 66 Tomohiro Kondo, Masamichi Uehira, Shigeru Nonaka; 67 Hiroo Kawai, Chinnarat Phadungsil (Tha), Ryuichi Oda, Juvic Pagunsan (Phi), K.T. Kim (Kor), Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind), Hideto Tanihara, Toru Taniguchi, Daisuke Kataoka, Lee Seong Ho (Kor), Cameron Smith (Aus), Shiv Kapur (Ind), Hwang Jung Gon (Kor), Wu Ashun (Chn), Hidemasa Hoshino. AFP