Akie Iwai made the most of the ideal conditions at the Taiheiyo Club Minori Course on Thursday. A three-time winner on the JLPGA this season, Iwai shot a 9-under 63 to tie the tournament 18-hole scoring record, which was last shot by Shanshan Feng on the Minori Course in 2017.
“Not only the fairways and greens but also the rough are very beautiful this week. I like it very much and it makes me feel like I could play well this week,” said Iwai of her record-tying round. “It is going to be a very tough birdie chasing game this week, but I want to build a new record.”
Iwai made birdies on her first three holes before dropping her only bogey of the day on No. 4. She made the turn in 33 thanks to another birdie on No. 9, then made two pars on 10 and 11 before the real fireworks began. An eagle on the par-5 No. 12 quickly put her at 5-under overall, then she sank another birdie on 13 to move to 6-under. She ended the day with three straight birdies on 16, 7 and 18, including a 15-foot long birdie putt on the last to give her the solo lead heading into the clubhouse.
“Yes, indeed,” said Iwai when asked if today’s was a comfortable round. “It has been a while since I had a comfortable round last time. Actually, my shots are not consistent today but try not to think negatively. It works today.”
Hometown favourite Nasa Hataoka, who hails from the Ibaraki area and lives just 20 minutes away from the Minori Course, also finished her day with three straight birdies for a first-round total of nine, the most in the field. A six-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Hataoka sits in T2 alongside LPGA Tour rookie Yuna Nishimura, who tied her low-round on the LPGA Tour with her Thursday 64. They share the T2 spot with JLPGA player Mone Inami, who won the silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after defeating Lydia Ko in a playoff.
China's Yu Liu, the only non-Japanese player in the top-5, and JLPGA player Shiho Kuwaki round out the top-5 at 7-under overall.