Following the first round of the 2019 TOTO Japan Classic, 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner Hannah Green is tied atop the leaderboard with JLPGA major champion Ai Suzuki at 5-under par. Six players sit one-stroke off the first-round lead in the 54-hole event, including former World No. 1 Lydia Ko, 2019 LPGA Tour rookie Jennifer Kupcho and last week’s runner-up Minjee Lee.
Green was bogey-free on Friday in Japan to fire her lowest round since the final round of the 2019 Cambia Portland Classic, where she picked up her second career LPGA win in August.
“I was very consistent,” Green said of her first-round 67. “I hit a couple bad drives, but I got lucky I think with where the positions were. But when I did miss hit shots I think I left myself the best opportunity to make par; gave myself a lot of uphill putts, which I think is really important this week. Some pin positions can be pretty tricky and a two-putt above the hole can be very good. I think that's what I did very well today. Hopefully I can continue that this weekend.”
On Sunday at the JLPGA’s Hisako Higuchi Mitsubishi Electric Ladies Golf Tournament, Suzuki hoisted her 14th career trophy on the JLPGA. On Friday in Shiga, Suzuki played alongside England’s Bronte Law and Australia’s Minjee Lee and she said once she got used to playing with new faces she was able to focus on her game.
“In the beginning of the round, playing with US LPGA Player, I was just trying to find out the pace of play,” Suzuki said. “But toward the end, I was able to set my pace, settle down and played well today. I didn’t set any score, just concentrated my mind to each shot.”
Suzuki, the 2017 TOTO Japan Classic runner-up, hit 12 of 14 fairways with just one bogey on Friday to put herself in good position heading into the weekend.
“Golf course is similar to last week,” Suzuki said. "Greens are sloped. Speed of the green is little slower, I need to adjust that. What I need to do is to be calm and not to be too aggressive, because when I start thinking about birdie, golf gets hard. When the chance came I was able to make that today.”
Major champion Lydia Ko birdied all the par-3’s on Friday to overcome a double bogey on No. 3 to sit just one stroke off the lead at -4 looking for her first win of the year.
“The first par-3 I hit it to like a foot, so it was nice to have those tap ins,” Ko said. “But the other ones, I chipped in on one, and the other two I holed it really good, like 25 feet, kind of the length of the putt. So it was nice to have those under my belt. I would say my ball striking wasn't very good the front nine. I chipped in twice on the front nine, and when you feel like things aren't going well and you get lucky in those kind of situations, you want to take advantage of that.”
Hyo Joo Kim has been one of the most consistent players on the LPGA Tour in 2019, with 18 made cuts in 19 starts and 11 top-10 finishes. Following the first round, Kim once again finds herself near the top of the leaderboard after closing with two birdies in her last three holes.
“I like playing in Japan,” Kim said. “All the conditions are good. Food is good here, so I'm enjoying playing here.”
2019 AIG Women’s British Open champion Hinako Shibuno is among a group of nine players tied for ninth at 3-under par following the first round.
“I played well until the last hole today,” Shibuno said of her birdie-bogey finish on Friday. “So I will keep doing that and play under par round. I kept myself controlled making good pars. Made good downhill putts, too. Overall my putting was good. I just wanted to end better today.”