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Taniguchi takes lead into clubhouse at Japan PGA

by Hiroki Noda

Kyodo

Toru Taniguchi held the clubhouse lead with a 7-under 65 on Thursday as the opening round of the Japan PGA Championship was suspended by darkness.

Taniguchi, the 2010 winner of the major tournament on the Japanese tour, made seven birdies without a bogey at Karasuyamajo Country Club in Tochigi Prefecture.

Thunder halted play for more than 90 minutes early in the afternoon, and 42 players were unable to complete their rounds.

“I didn’t want to play 35 or 36 holes in one day on this tough golf course, so I’m glad I was able to finish my round today,” said Taniguchi. “There will be the U.S. Open qualifying tournament later this month (May 21), so I don’t want to waste extra energy by playing too many holes in one day.

“I didn’t play well in the first three events, and I wasn’t confident or anything coming into this week,” said the 44-year-old, who birdied all four par-5 holes. “I don’t really know why I began to play better . . . I just managed to post a good score.”

Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines, who earned a one-year exemption on the Japanese tour by topping the Asian Tour money list in 2011, carded a bogey-free 66. Hideto Tanihara shot a 67.

“Everything was good,” Pagunsan said of his round. “I’m just trying not to hit the wrong side of the green. If you do that here, you are likely to make a bogey.”

Among the players who did not complete the round, Taichi Teshima was 5 under after 14 holes. Crowd favorite Ryo Ishikawa was 2 over with one hole left, while Yuta Ikeda struggled to a 76.

“I was sloppy all day,” Ishikawa said. “Nothing went well today. I haven’t been this bad in a long time.”

The 20-year-old, who is looking for his 10th career title after a winless 2011, had just one birdie against three bogeys.

“I wasn’t comfortable with the flow of my body, so I couldn’t hit the ball solid,” Ishikawa said. “I definitely have to adjust the mechanics.”

The remainder of the first round and the second round will be played on Friday. The winner will earn 30 million yen from the 150 million yen purse as well as a five-year exemption on the tour.