• Kyodo

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Yukari Baba had a sweeping start to the Masters GC Ladies on Friday, shooting a bogey-free 67 to take sole possession of first place in the ¥123 million event.

Baba birdied the opening hole before adding four more on the back nine at the Masters Golf Club, where the 28-year-old held a one-shot advantage over Izumi Narita.

Ahn Sun Ju, the Japan LPGA money leader seeking victory for the third straight week, stumbled off the blocks as the South Korean carded a 73.

“I didn’t think Ahn would be doing this well before the season started,” said Baba, who has yet to win this year. “She’s clearly on a roll and she’s running away with it. The rest of us have to do better and put up a fight.”

Trailing Narita by one stroke were Tamie Durdin, Jeon Mi Jeong and Midori Yoneyama.

Sakura Yokomine launched her campaign with a 71 in a 10-way tie for seventh place.

Park leads pack

CHIBA (Kyodo) Park Jae Bum led a South Korean onslaught in the second round of the Bridgestone Open with a 67 on Friday for the second straight day.

Park, who had a one-stroke lead at 10-under 134, was one of five South Korean golfers in the top eight at Sodegaura Country Club. Ryo Ishikawa barely made the cut with a 72 as one of nine sharing 60th place at 1 over par.

Park, who eagled the second hole and also rang up six birdies against three bogeys, was joined by compatriots Kim Kyung Tae, who was one shot off the pace, Cho Min Gyu (136), Kim Do Hoon (137) and S. K. Ho (137) in the top eight.

“My shots have been good today and yesterday,” said the 28-year-old Park, who is still searching for his first win on the JGTO Tour. “Only if my putter was working better.”

“The performance of the other Korean players motivates me. I haven’t been playing well lately, but they all tell me just to worry about my own game.”

Hiroyuki Fujita shared second with Kim Kyung Tae as the highest among Japanese competitors. Defending champion Yuta Ikeda was four shots out of first place in a three-way tie for 12th.

Ishikawa only had two birdies on the second and fifth holes, and canceled them out with bogeys on Nos. 1 and 16. The 19-year-old phenom said he is in the middle of altering his swing, which is hampering his performance.

“I wasn’t happy with the way the round turned out,” Ishikawa said. “I just didn’t have enough birdies. I managed to make the cut so I plan on turning it around starting tomorrow.

“I’m in the process of changing my swing, which is affecting my timing. I’m just fortunate to be able to golf for two more days.”

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