Veteran Japanese golfer Hiroshi Iwata and his rookie compatriot Kaito Onishi carded five-under-par 65s to take the first-round lead in the Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup at Oarai Golf Club today.

American Berry Henson, Todd Sinnott from Australia and Japanโ€™s Shugo Imahira returned 66s โ€“ in what is the first Asian Tour event to be played in Japan since September of 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twelve players fired 67s including Japanโ€™s Yuto Katsuragawa, currently first on Japanโ€™s money list, and Keita Nakajima โ€“ the Japanese golfer who is the worldโ€™s number one ranked amateur.

Both Iwata, a three-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO), and Onishi, a professional since last year looking for his first victory, traded seven birdies against two bogeys. ย ย 

This weekโ€™s tournament, which is jointly sanctioned with the JGTO, gives the winner an exemption into The Open at St. Andrews in July which is a major attraction for Iwata.

โ€œThis is the first time I have wanted to play in the UK so much as itโ€™s the 150thย staging of The Open!โ€ said Iwata.

โ€œThis is a great opportunity. I played well today, felt the course is a bit shorter compared with when we played it a few years ago. Tee shots are key and today I put them all in the fairway.โ€

The 42 year old has been enjoying a return to form of late having won The Crowns tournament a year ago, which was his first JGTO victory in six years, and he finished third in that same event at the start of the month.

Onishi is just 23 years old and played on the Abema Tour last year, which is Japanโ€™s feeder tour, and has already made an impression on the JGTO this season after securing fourth in the ISPS HANDA Championship in Japan last month.

โ€œPutting has been great for the past two weeks and it was today. Just need to straighten out my tee shots,โ€ said Onishi, who is playing Oarai for the first time.

Henson made seven birdies and three bogeys and felt playing aggressive paid dividends.

โ€œJapan has its own style of golf. Every time I come here, I have to adapt, I have to change, and I have to learn how to play this style,โ€ said Henson.

โ€œIโ€™ve played here now for 10 years. This year I came thinking I need to play more aggressively as thatโ€™s what I see the top players do. Even if itโ€™s a difficult shot, they play so aggressively. I did that today and it worked out.โ€

The Open is also something that is on the 42 year oldโ€™s radar.

He added: โ€œMy goal is to win this week. I came here with an aim to grab The Open spot. My life goal is to play the British open at St. Andrews. I was aiming for that since the start of the year. Another life goal is to play the US Open at Pebble Beach. I want to just enjoy myself here in Japan. I love sushi and I enjoy Japanese food. My goal is to win and to enjoy myself this week in Japan.โ€

Henson is looking to secure his second win on the Asian Tour as is Sinnott.

โ€œIt was a good round. I really enjoyed playing with Ben (Campbell). Had some good chat out there. I really enjoyed the round and I like the golf course. My putting was pretty solid. I hit it decent the first 14 holes. Didnโ€™t hit it great on the last few. I struggled a bit there but was still able to hole some nice par putts,โ€ said Sinnott, who claimed the TPS Victoria in February for his first success on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

โ€œItโ€™s my first time playing this course. Itโ€™s hard. We were lucky because there wasnโ€™t much wind this morning. When the wind or rain gets up, it can play very tough out there.โ€

Thailandโ€™s Sadom Kaewkanjana, buoyed this week by receiving an invite to next weekโ€™s PGA Championship, came in with a 69.

He said: โ€œI am feeling good this week. Received good news at the start of the week [about the PGA Championship] and that got me really excited. Iโ€™m playing in my first Major next week at the PGA Championship. Itโ€™s my first time playing in the United States. I have never played there before. I was preparing to play my first Major at The Open in July. Getting into the PGA Championship was really a surprise to me. My caddy found out about it on Monday and told me. I heard the courses for PGA Championship are very difficult, but we are still very excited.โ€

Two players made aces on par threes today: Thailandโ€™s Suradit Yongcharoenchai holed his nine iron on the fourth while Japanโ€™s Naoyuki Kataoka found the cup with his eight iron on 14. They both won JPY300,000 (approx. US$2,330).

Scores after round 1 of the Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup being played at the par 70, 7163 Yards Oarai GC course (am – denotes amateur):

65 – Kaito Onishi (JPN), Hiroshi Iwata (JPN).
66 – Todd Sinnott (AUS), Shugo Imahira (JPN), Berry Henson (USA).
67 – Kazuma Kobori (am, NZL), Keita Nakajima (am, JPN), Yuto Katsuragawa (JPN), Rikuya Hoshino (JPN), Ben Campbell (NZL), Yuta Ikeda (JPN), Toru Taniguchi (JPN), Jimmy Hydes (am, NZL), Michio Matsumura (JPN), Tomohiro Ishizaka (JPN), Taiga Kobayashi (am, JPN), Kodai Ichihara (JPN).
68 – Aoki Takano (JPN), Shunsuke Sonoda (JPN), Hiroki Abe (JPN), Hideto Kobukuro (JPN), Prom Meesawat (THA).
69 – Ryo Hisatsune (JPN), Yosuke Asaji (JPN), Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA), Brad Kennedy (AUS), Shota Ueki (JPN), Kosuke Hamamoto (THA), Todd Baek (USA), Naoyuki Kataoka (JPN), Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN), Yoshitaka Takeya (JPN), Miguel Carballo (ARG).
70 – Ryo Ishikawa (JPN), Shintaro Kobayashi (JPN), Keiichiro Fukabori (JPN), Yuki Inamori (JPN), Daijiro Izumida (JPN), Kosuke Suzuki (am, JPN), Taichiro Ideriha (am, JPN), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA), Shingo Katayama (JPN), Steve Lewton (ENG), Tomoyasu Sugiyama (JPN), Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND), Paul Peterson (USA), Yosuke Tsukada (JPN), Tatsunori Shogenji (JPN).
71 – Daisuke Kataoka (JPN), Taiga Semikawa (am, JPN), Ryuko Tokimatsu (JPN), Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN), Ryo Noro (JPN), Kazuki Higa (JPN), Yuwa Kosaihira (JPN), Mikumu Horikawa (JPN), Younghan Song (KOR), Azuma Yano (JPN), Yusuke Sakamoto (JPN), Taihei Sato (JPN), Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA), Tomoyo Ikemura (JPN), Shun Niimura (am, JPN), Koumei Oda (JPN), Yusaku Miyazato (JPN), Katsumasa Miyamoto (JPN), Taichi Teshima (JPN).
72 – Aguri Iwasaki (JPN), Ben Leong (MAS), Jay Choi (USA), Gunn Charoenkul (THA), Ren Yonezawa (JPN), Ryuichi Oiwa (JPN), Tomoharu Otsuki (JPN), Kyungtae Kim (KOR), Yuta Sugiura (am, JPN), Eric Sugimoto (JPN), Ryonosuke Furukawa (am, JPN), Ashita Piamkulvanich (am, THA).
73 – Kensei Hirata (JPN), Kazuki Ishiwata (JPN), Mardan Mamat (SIN), Toshinori Muto (JPN), Ryutaro Nagano (JPN), Yusaku Hosono (JPN), Haruto Toge (am, JPN), Yuki Furukawa (JPN), Scott Vincent (ZIM), Prayad Marksaeng (THA), Masanori Kobayashi (JPN), Shota Akiyoshi (JPN), Kunihiro Kamii (JPN), Naoto Nakanishi (JPN), Jbe Kruger (RSA), Naoto Takayanagi (JPN).
74 – Angelo Que (PHI), Mitsuhiko Hashizume (JPN), Liang Wenchong (CHN), Shotaro Wada (JPN), Koichi Kitamura (JPN), Konosuke Nakazato (JPN), Minato Oshima (am, JPN), Jack Harrison (ENG), Koshiro Maeda (am, JPN), Grant Godfrey (USA), Yoshinari Takano (JPN).
75 – Riura Matsui (am, JPN), Su Ching-hung (am, TPE), Suzuchiyo Ishida (JPN), Thanyakon Khrongpha (THA), Yuki Sato (JPN), Rahil Gangjee (IND), Jigen Serizawa (JPN), Shinichi Yokota (JPN), Yuta Uetake (JPN), Shinji Tomimura (JPN), Poom Saksansin (THA), Tadahiro Takayama (JPN).
76 – Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA), Makoto Iwasaki (JPN), Hiroki Mori (JPN), Shoji Kawai (JPN), Masato Sumiuchi (am, JPN), Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA), Yoshiharu Tomotsugu (JPN), Takahiro Hataji (JPN), Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN), Ryuta Suzuki (am, JPN), Taisei Shimizu (JPN), Kohei Okada (am, JPN), Mikiya Akutsu (JPN), Kenta Endo (JPN).
77 – Janne Kaske (FIN), Hideto Tanihara (JPN), Hirotaro Naito (JPN), Lu Wei-chih (TPE).
78 – Kenshiro IKEGAMI (JPN), Naoki Sekito (JPN).
80 – Yoshinari Ishizuka (am, JPN), Haruo Fujishima (JPN).
81 – Zhou Tianwei (CHN), Panuphol Pittayarat (THA).
83 – Hiromi Kinoshita (JPN), Jake Higginbottom (AUS).

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