Golf: Lydia Ko off the pace in Japan

Lydia Ko. Photo / Getty
Lydia Ko. Photo / Getty

Lydia Ko is well off the pace after the opening round of the TOTO Japan Classic on the LPGA Tour.

Ko shot a two-over par 74 to it in a share of 57th, with her main rival in the player of the year race leading the way atop the tournament.

Ariya Jutanugarn chipped in for birdie on the final hole for a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead with Soo-Yun Kang.

Jutanugarn birdied six of the last 11 holes in her bogey-free round, holing out from 35 feet on the par-4 18th in the LPGA Tour's first visit to the Tokyo area since 1991. The 20-year-old Thai star leads the LPGA Tour with five victories and has a 13-point lead over Ko in the player of the year standings.

Kang birdied three of her final four holes and had only 22 putts on the Taiheiyo Club's pine tree-lined Minori Course. The 40-year-old South Korean player won the LPGA Tour's 2005 Safeway Classic and is now a regular on the Japan LPGA. She won the Suntory Ladies in June for her second Japanese title.

American Stacy Lewis and South Korea's Jenny Shin shot 67. South Korea's Ha Na Jang and Germany's Sandra Gal followed at 68 in the sixth and final event on the LPGA Tour's fall Asian swing.

Lewis, the 2012 winner at Kintetsu Kashikojima, rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 15th with a birdie on the par-5 17th. The 11-time tour champion is winless in 61 starts since June 2014. She has 11 runner-up finishes during the drought.

Jang won last month in Taiwan for her third victory of the year.

China's Shanshan Feng, the winner last week in Malaysia, topped the group at 69 along with Minjee Lee, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, 2008 and 2010 winner Jiyai Shin and So Yeon Ryu. Lee won the Blue Bay LPGA two weeks ago in China for her second victory of the year. Shin won the JLPGA event last week in Saitama.

The top-ranked Ko had made two birdies and four bogeys in her round of 74. Gary Matthews caddied for Ko and also will carry her bag in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. Ko fired Jason Hamilton and used Sargunan Suntharaj last week in Malaysia. Hamilton teamed with Jang after his firing.

American Lexi Thompson birdied the final hole for a 73. In May in Japan, she won the JLPGA's World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup.

- With AP

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