• Kyodo


Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama got off to a flying start Thursday when he shot a 6-under-par 65 for a share of second place after the opening round of the darkness-shortened Phoenix Open.

While seven-time PGA Tour winner Matt Kuchar of the United States took sole lead at the par-71 Tournament Players Club with the day’s best score of 64, Matsuyama sank an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th to start off his bogey-free round, which featured six birdies.

Brendan Steele of the United States also shot a 65 before play was suspended due to darkness with nine players still out on the course.

“My shots are improving. It’s good that I had no bogeys,” said Matsuyama, who has been struggling with his game of late.

“I don’t know why I play well on this course. But I didn’t miss the green and that’s probably what led to the good score.”

Matsuyama was just as impressive on the back nine, hitting a four-iron to 23 feet for birdie at No. 3.

The 24-year-old, who reached a career-high fifth in the world golf rankings earlier this week, has performed well at past Phoenix Opens, finishing fourth in his tournament debut in 2014, second in 2015 before winning it last year.

Still, Matsuyama remained grounded and said there are no guarantees in the sport of golf.

“My shots are getting better but it’s only the first day. I still don’t know how I’ll do on Day 2. I’ll practice hard so I’ll be able to keep this up until the final round,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ryo Ishikawa had three birdies in a bogey-free round, and finds himself among 10 players tied for 18th place at 68.

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