KASAMA, IBARAKI PREF. – Fresh off a 10th-place finish at the U.S. Open, tour rookie Hideki Matsuyama had a 5-under-par 67 on Thursday that left him in a tie for second at the Japan Tour Championship, two strokes off the first-round pace of South Korea’s Cho Min-gyu.
Playing with U.S. tour regular Ryo Ishikawa, the 21-year-old Matsuyama had an eagle, four birdies and a single bogey. Matsuyama sits atop the money rankings and has two wins and two runnerup finishes in his five tour events as a pro.
Despite playing on an unfamiliar course and dealing with jet lag following his return from the United States on Tuesday, Matsuyama was a portrait of calm.
“I was able to settle in,” said Matsuyama, who got a full helping of what it’s like to golf in front of the huge gallery that flocks to Japan’s most popular player.
“It was a surprise. It was just like my final round at the U.S. Open. I didn’t really watch him much because I was absorbed in my own game.”
While Matsuyama thrived, Ishikawa finished the day at 8-over-par 80 in a tie for last place after a birdie, five bogies and two double bogies at Shishido Hills Country Club.
Kim, whose only tour victory came at the Kansai Open in August 2011, carded eight birdies against a lone bogey.
In addition to Matsuyama, 20-year-old Yosuke Asaji, American Han Lee and South Korea’s S.K. Ho were two strokes back of Kim.