19 April, 2018: Japan’s Shingo Katayama and Rikuya Hoshino took the early honours when they returned with matching seven-under-par 64s for a share of the first round lead at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship on Thursday. There are eleven Indians in the field – S Chikkarangappa (68), SSP Chawrasia (69), Rahil Gangjee (69), Ajeetesh Sandhu (69), Shiv Kapur (70), Khalin Joshi (71), Arjun Atwal (72), Gaganjeet Bhullar (73), Rashid Khan (74), Jyoti Randhawa (75) and Chiragh Kumar (77).
The Japanese trio of Jinichiro Kozuma, Masahiro Kawamura and defending champion Kenichi Kuboya posted identical 66s to stay one shot off the pace while Malaysia’s Ben Leong, who welcomed the arrival of his baby boy on Monday, had a promising start when he posted a 67 to stay in the mix at the Ibaraki Country Club.
Thailand’s Prom Meesawat and veteran Prayad Marksaeng also opened their campaigns encouragingly by signing for a 68 at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship, which is also the concluding leg of the Panasonic Swing series.
Katayama, who finished in eighth place on the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) money list last season, has never got the job done despite getting off to good starts at the Ibaraki Country Club.
But at 45, he believes he is now older and wiser to contend for the title.
“I’ve played here a few times and I remember leading a tournament here before. I carded an eight-under in my first round.
“But that time I was much younger, so I went out drinking in the city after that I played really poorly. I’m pretty much settled now so I will not going to make same mistake again,” said the Japanese.
Katayama stormed towards the turn by firing five birdie for flawless outward 31 in his back-nine 10.
He continued his birdie blitz on holes one and two after the turn but dropped a shot on three for what would be his only blemish of the day.
The 45-year-old then picked up another gain on six before reaching home in 33 for a 64.
“I like to hear ‘Nice Play’ from the crowd. The conditions were ideal today as there was not much wind and I was pretty consistent with my shots and putting,” said Katayama.
Leong meanwhile found similar bliss on and off the golf course as the new father emerged as the leading Malaysian after the opening day of the Panasonic Open Golf Championship which is jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and JGTO.
Starting from the back-nine 10, Leong mixed three bogeys and two birdies for an outward 37.
He regained his composure in his inward-nine by battling back with five birdies to stay three shots off the pace set by the Katayama and Hoshino.
“It was bumpy for my first nine holes with lots of bogeys and birdies. But I settled down in my back-nine and told myself not to give up and just do my best.
My wife was not supposed to be due on Monday. My wife has been really supportive and she told me, you don’t know when he’s going to come, so don’t miss this chance. I’m going to give my 100% this week,” said Leong.
Asian Tour Release