YUKA SASO yielded to the uncooperative greens while Na-Ri Lee started hot in the first round on Thursday of the Japan Women’s Open in Myawaka City in Fukuoka Prefecture.
Saso got her long game going but the Filipino-Japanese couldn’t tame the greens and settled for a one-over 73 to fall nine strokes behind Lee.
Lee nailed five birdies in in front to complete a solid eight-under 64 for a two-stroke lead over Sakura Koiwai, who outshot Saso and Ayaka Furue in the featured flight of early leg winners on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) of Japan Tour.
Koiwai, winner of the Golf5 Ladies, carded a bogey-less 66 behind behind a superb iron game that earned her birdies from close range.
LPGA Tour veteran Momoko Ueda found her stride after two forgettable finishes and marked her start with five birdies against a bogey for a 68 and a share of third place with Erika Hara.
Kokone Yoshimoto carded a 69 to tie Aya Kinoshita, Mizuki Tanaka and Sayaka Takahashi for fifth and Lala Anai fired a 70 for joint ninth with six others in the Y112.5 million tournament.
The International Container Terminal Services Inc.-backed Saso had trouble with her putts and canned only with two birdies against three bogeys, the last on the par-three 17th for a 36-37.
She shared 36th place with 17 others, including Nagamine, Furue, 16-time JLPGA winner Ai Suzuki and last year’s runner-up Eri Okayama, in the 120-player starting field.