SHIMA, MIE PREF. – Shiho Oyama upstaged the U.S. LPGA Tour regulars by firing a 4-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the $1.2 million Mizuno Classic Friday.
Oyama, a 12-time winner on the Japan LPGA Tour but winless since 2011, overcame a sore neck to card six birdies and two bogeys on the par-72 Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club course.
“I’m just glad I could make it around the course without any problems,” said Oyama, who underwent massage and acupuncture to overcome the intense pain. “It’s a miracle that I recovered.”
Defending champion Stacy Lewis of the United States, the highest-ranked player in the tournament at No. 3, could only manage two birdies against one bogey and was three shots back in a large group tied for 20th place.
The tournament, which offers a top prize of $180,000, is the final event on the LPGA Tour’s Asian swing. It is co-sanctioned by the U.S. and Japan tours.
Two-time former champion Shin Jiyai was among five South Koreans in a nine-way tie for second place, along with American Brittany Lincicome and Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg.
Also at 3-under 69 were South Korea’s Lee Na-ri, who has won twice over the past two months on the Japan LPGA Tour, Choi Chella, Han Hee-won and Jang Eun-bi. Others in the group are Kaori Nakamura and Junko Omote.
Americans Austin Ernst, Brittany Lang and Danielle Kang were another shot back in a group of nine at 2 under.
Kuwabara, Wu atop leaderboard
Katsunori Kuwabara fired a flawless second round of 5-under 66 to grab a share of the lead with China’s Wu Ashun at the midway point of the Heiwa PGM Championship on Friday.
The 44-year-old Kuwabara, currently languishing in 197th on the JGTO money list and winless since the 1998 Japan PGA Matchplay Championship, had five birdies at the par-71 Miho Golf Club to reach 9-under 133.
Wu, who became China’s first champion on the JGTO Tour when he won last year’s Toshin Golf Tournament, also shot a bogey-free 66.
New Zealand’s David Smail (67), Yasuharu Imano (66) and South Korea’s Lee Kyoung-hoon (68), shared third at 8-under.
Overnight leader Yuta Ikeda dropped two shots back but was still in the frame for a second win in as many weeks after his ABC Championship triumph last Sunday, carding a 70 for a tie for sixth at 7 under.