Suzuki Leads Logjam of Players Tied In Japan

After the opening round of the TOTO Japan Classic, there’s a seven-way tie at the top of the leaderboard in Ibaraki, Japan.

A full seven golfers finished deadlocked at 6-under par Friday, including three Japan Tour players – Nasa Hataoka, Saiki Fujita, and Ai Suzuki, two Americans – Lizette Salas and Jane Park, South Korea’s Min-Young Lee, and Shanshan Feng of China.

Suzuki, who ranks second on the 2017 JLPGA money list, is seeking her third win of the season on the Japan tour. The 23-year old star said she’s appreciating the home cooking this week.

“Commuting from home is really relaxing, just trying not to play too much with my dog,” joked Suzuki.

Feng, the defending champion, was only 1-under through 11 holes, but made five birdies over her final seven holes to move into a tie at the top. She is seeking to become the first golfer on the LPGA Tour to defend a title in 2017.

“I did start the day slowly, just like usual, and then I got my first birdie on the eighth hole finally. After that I was like that’s just the first of many, and then my ball striking was very good on the back nine,” said Fang. “My 5-iron was really working so it left me a lot of birdie chances and I even missed one five-foot birdie. I still made like four in a row in the last five holes so I’m really happy about that.”

Salas’ opening-round 66 marks her best first-round mark since she posted a 64 in Round 1 of the 2015 Meijer LPGA Classic.

“I feel really confident with these greens. They’re slick, they’re fast, which is the kind of greens I like to be on,” said Salas, who is making her first start in Japan. “My iron play has been improving so far and I’ve been making clutch putts when I need to.”

A pair of South Koreans, Sei Young Kim and Chae-Young Yoon, are tied for 8th with Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist at 5 under.

Nordqvist said she had been hitting it well of late but hasn’t been seeing her putts fall.

“It’s been overwhelming since Evian,” said Nordqvist, a two-time winner this season. “I’ve been starting to do my thing and I feel like today… I got a few more putts to drop.”

A group of 13 golfers are one shot back at 4-under, headlined by Americans Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, who fired a 6-under-par 30 on her back nine, New Zealander Lydia Ko, who is still looking for her first victory of the year, and world No. 1 So Yeon Ryu of South Korea.


TOP 10: TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC

1 Min-Young Lee -6
1 Jane Park -6
1 Lizette Salas -6
1 Nasa Hataoka -6
1 Saiki Fujita -6
1 Ai Suzuki -6
1 Shanshan Feng -6
8 Anna Nordqvist -5
8 Sei Young Kim -5
8 Chae Young Yoon -5


ROUND 1 HIGHLIGHTS


QUOTABLE

“What I did today was good, and I think I just stick to my same plan. I believe if my ball striking is as good as normal then I’ll give myself a lot of birdie chances every day. So, if my putting is working I should be able to shoot lower scores.”
Shanshan Feng, Co-Leader


LEADERBOARD: ROUND 1

PPLAYER 
1Min-Young Lee-6
1Jane Park-6
1Lizette Salas-6
1Nasa Hataoka-6
1Saiki Fujita-6
1Ai Suzuki-6
1Shanshan Feng-6
8Anna Nordqvist-5
8Sei Young Kim-5
8Chae Young Yoon-5
11Brittany Altomare-4
11Jenny Shin-4
11Ayaka Watanabe-4
11Caroline Masson-4
11Stacy Lewis-4
11Eun-Hee Ji-4
11Mi Hyang Lee-4
11So Yeon Ryu-4
11Pei-Ying Tsai-4
11Lydia Ko-4
11Lexi Thompson-4
11Asako Fujimoto-4
11Yukari Nishiyama-4
24Misuzu Narita-3
24Hyo Joo Kim-3
24Jennifer Song-3
24Karine Icher-3
24Asuka Kashiwabara-3
24Saki Takeo-3
24Chella Choi-3
24Mamiko Higa-3
24Sun Ju Ahn-3
24Teresa Lu-3
24Ariya Jutanugarn-3
24Angel Yin-3
24Momoko Ueda-3
24In Gee Chun-3
38Jacqui Concolino-2
38Jeong Eun Lee-2
38Ji-Hee Lee-2
38Eri Okayama-2
38Charley Hull-2
38Minjee Lee-2
38Ritsuko Ryu-2
38Erika Kikuchi-2
38Haru Nomura-2
47Angela Stanford-1
47Brooke Henderson-1
47Serena Aoki-1
47Sarah Jane Smith-1
47Kana Nagai-1
47Soo-Yun Kang-1
47Jodi Ewart Shadoff-1
47Moriya Jutanugarn-1
47Fumika Kawagishi-1
56Yumiko YoshidaE
56Jessica KordaE
56Megan KhangE
56Miyu ShinkaiE
56Danielle KangE
56Kotone HoriE
62Shoko Sasaki1
62Pornanong Phatlum1
62Kana Mikashima1
62Jiyai Shin1
62Austin Ernst1
62Rie Tsuji1
68Haruka Morita-Wanyaolu2
68Suzann Pettersen2
68Lala Anai2
68Candie Kung2
68Hee-Kyung Bae2
73Marina Alex3
73Rumi Yoshiba3
73Mi Jung Hur3
76Michelle Wie4
77Su-Hyun Oh5

Credit: LPGA Communications, Getty Images


Jeff Smith

Jeff is a Producer for Pro Golf Weekly. He is producing a digital documentary on the 2016-17 PGA Tour season.



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