KUWANA, MIE PREF. – Tatsunori Nukaga held a one-shot lead with a sizzling 7-under 64 and Ryo Ishikawa was in a tie for 16th after the first round of the season-opening Token Homemate Cup on Thursday.
Ishikawa, coming off a missed cut in his fourth Masters appearance last week, mixed four birdies with two bogeys in a round of 69 at Token Tado Country Club in Mie Prefecture.
The 20-year-old is looking for his 10th career JGTO Tour victory after a winless 2011.
“I think I had a good round,” Ishikawa said. “I achieved my goal of making four birdies in a round. I was able to stay calm regardless of the outcome of each shot — after a good one or a bad one.”
Ishikawa needed four shots to reach the par-4 18th green but escaped with a bogey by holing a 10-foot putt.
“I was mentally ready to card a double bogey for the last hole when I got to the green, but I got a big bonus,” Ishikawa said. “On that hole, my first three shots didn’t turn out how I wanted to, but I didn’t panic at all. I controlled my mental state really well. I hope to do so again tomorrow.”
Nukaga scorched the 7,081-yard, par-71 course with eight birdies, including four in a row from the seventh hole, against a lone bogey at No. 11.
“I didn’t really go aggressive,” said the 28-year-old, whose career-best finish is fifth place at the 2009 Mynavi ABC Championship. “I just tried to relax and get my swing. It’s the first round of the season, so I kind of wanted to start quietly. During the round, I had a hard time calming myself down after an unexpected run of birdies.”
Nukaga led the field in average driving distance at 304.0 yards for the day. He is a two-time leader in that category with 302.79 yards in 2009 and 304.28 yards in 2010.
Last year, Nukaga had to split his time between the JGTO and Challenge Tours while winning the money title on the second-tier tour.
“I’m in the process of making changes to my swing,” Nukaga said. “I’ve decided not to seek distance too much. As a result, I feel like I’m more consistent than before. In the past, I sometimes wanted to drive the ball 320 yards. But not any more.”
Ryuichi Oda was alone in second as he made a hole-in-one on the 177-yard, par-3 16th hole on his way to a 65.
“It’s my third hole-in-one on the tour, and I’m thrilled,” Oda said of his 7-iron shot. “I missed a five-foot par putt on the 13th hole but managed to get back-to-back birdies at Nos. 14-15, so I was able to regain my rhythm.”
Mamoru Osanai and Yui Ueda were tied for third, two strokes off the pace.
Yuta Ikeda opened with a 70, while Tadahiro Takayama, the 2005 and 2011 Token Homemate Cup champion, carded a 71.
Sunday’s winner will earn ¥26 million from the ¥130 million purse. A total of 25 tournaments will be played this season through Dec. 2.