• Kyodo

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U.S. LPGA tour regular Akiko Fukushima and current Japanese money rankings leader Yuri Fudo both shot 3-under 69s Friday to grab themselves a piece of a five-way tie for the lead after the first round of NEC Karuizawa 72 golf tournament.

Appearing in only her second JLPGA event of the season, defending champion Fukushima highlighted her round with a hat trick of birdies from the seventh in driving rain and swirling winds on Karuizawa Golf 72’s North Course to secure a place in a logjam of players at the top of the leaderboard.

Fudo, aiming to become the top earner on the Japanese women’s circuit for the fourth season in a row, birdied two of her final three holes in flawless journey over the 6,497-yard layout and was joined in the lead by veteran Ikuyo Shiotani, Kaori Suzuki and Rie Fujiwara.

Kasumi Fujii, who finished runnerup behind money queen Fudo last season, overcame a pair of early bogeys to shoot a 70 and heads a quartet of golfers including South Korean Kim Ae Sook one stroke behind the early pacesetters.

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