As massive crowds lined the rope line at Seta Golf Course, two past champions of the TOTO Japan Classic rose to the top of the first-round leaderboard: 2019 winner Ai Suzuki, and 2007 and 2011 winner Momoko Ueda. The two, who both recorded 7-under 65s, are two of the eight Japanese players tied for sixth or better after day one. Suzuki went bogey-free, carding seven birdies, with four coming in her opening nine holes on Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 8.
“My shots were not consistent in the first 4 holes then I made a little adjustment in my swing. After that my shots are getting better and never miss the fairway. Shots are good and putting are also well. So, I feel like I could go to -10 today,” said Suzuki.
Suzuki, who did not take LPGA Tour Membership following her win in 2019, has earned five top-10 finishes this season on the JLPGA, including a season-best T3 at the AXA LADIES GOLF TOURNAMENT. She entered the week ninth on the JLPGA in first-round scoring, averaging 70.59 this season. Suzuki’s last win on the JLPGA came at the 2021 SHIDEIDO Ladies Open, the 17th of her career.
“Putting is good this week. Hope to keep it and try to keep the fairway as much as possible, then it will bring a big chance for me,” said Suzuki.
Ueda’s first day was highlight by opening birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, but her round picked up speed after the turn when she carded five-straight birdies on Nos. 10-14. The 16-time JLPGA winner is playing in her 13th TOTO Japan Classic, and is tied with Jiyai Shin for most appearances in the co-sanctioned event of those playing this week. Ueda is making her third LPGA Tour appearance this season in Shiga, after finishing T13 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship and missing the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles.
“It is just a good 1st round. I do not think about it very much at this moment. I just want to focus on each day from tomorrow as well, said Ueda, who departed from the LPGA Tour after the 2013 season. “I changed shaft for driver and also putter. I normally do not change my putter pretty often but it works very well this week.”
The 2021 JLPGA champion of the event, Ayaka Furue, carded a 6-under 66 and sits tied with Sakura Koiwai in third. Furue, who won her seventh JLPGA title at the FJITSU LADIES 2022, was firing from all cylinders in her first nine holes, making the turn in 29. A bogey on No. 11 and a birdie on the closing hole helped her towards her lowest 18-hole score on Tour since her final-round 62 in her victory at the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open.
“I played very aggressively until the 10th hole. But, I missed the green on the 11th hole and made a bogey. SInce then I could not play aggressively today,” said Furue. “I hope to play well for the next three days as a Japanese player.”
Four-time JLPGA winner Miyuu Yamashita, who currently ranks first on the 2022 JLPGA Money List thanks to three victories in this year alone, is in solo fifth after a 5-under 67 at Seta. Yamashita, who also leads the JLPGA in top-10 finishes (18) and scoring average (70. 16) this year, notched birdies on Nos. 2, 9 12, 13 and 16 in her bogey-free day. Yamashita is playing in her second-ever LPGA Tour event, following her debut at the 2022 AIG Women’s Open, where she finished in a tie for 13th.
Four players sit in a tie for sixth at -4: Kana Nagai, Kotone Hori, Yuting Shi, and Ayaka Watanabe. Eight players are tied for 10th at -3 after 18 holes, including major champion Jeongeun Lee6, LPGA Tour winner Carlota Ciganda, and 2022 Tour rookies Narin An and Linn Grant. The newest Rolex Rankings No. 1 Atthaya Thitikul is T30 after shooting a 1-under 71. Two-time major champion Minjee Lee posted an even-par 72 to close out the day in a tie for 46th.