Ikeda rockets to first-round lead in Japan

Yuta Ikeda put himself in a strong position to end a string of runner-up finishes as he blitzed his way to a nine-under-par 62 to grab the opening-round lead at the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open on Thursday.

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 150-million-yen tournament (about $1.9 million) 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.

"I started off very well and the momentum started to build. Everything went smoothly so I guess that's why I have no bogeys.

"I did have some up and downs with my shots but when I got in trouble, I recovered very well. I guess that's the key to my good score."

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.

" I won't say that I can win my fourth title yet because it is only the first day but I believe I have a good chance of shooting a lower score and give myself a chance."

Leading scores after round one of the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open (par 71)

62 - Yuta Ikeda (JPN)

64 - Katsumasa Miyamoto (JPN), Koumei Oda (JPN), Yusaku Miyazato (JPN), Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN), Kazuhiro Yamashita (JPN)

65 - Kim Do-Hoon (KOR)

66 - Tomohiro Kondo (JPN), Masamichi Uehira (JPN), Shigeru Nonaka (JPN)

67 - Hiroo Kawai (JPN), Chinnarat Phadungsil (THA), Ryuichi Oda (JPN), Juvic Pagunsan (PHI), K.T. Kim (KOR), Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), Hideto Tanihara (JPN), Toru Taniguchi (JPN), Daisuke Kataoka (JPN), Lee Seong-Ho (KOR), Cameron Smith (AUS), Shiv Kapur (IND), Hwang Jung-Gon (KOR), Wu Ashun (CHN), Hidemasa Hoshino (JPN)

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