Asaji, Ikemura off to a solid start in New Zealand

Asaji, Ikemura off to a solid start in New Zealand

Yosuke Asaji and Tomoyo Ikemura got off to an encouraging start at the New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport, carding matching six-under-par 65s to be tied for second and sit four shots behind Australia's Christopher Wood.


Asaji, a three-time JGTO winner, traded seven birdies against a lone bogey on the Millbrook Resort’s Remarkables course and his effort was matched by Ikemura, who sank birdies to offset two bogeys on the par-71 venue.


Thailand's Gunn Charoenkul, the JGTO member who finished runner-up at International Series Qatar recently, also impressed on the Remarkables course with a bogey-free card containing six birdies.


No one took advantage of the ideal scoring condition on the Remarkables course better than Wood.


He blazed the course with an eagle and eight birdies on his way to setting a course-record 61 and opening up a commanding four-shot advantage at the top of the leaderboard.


The tournament will be played over two courses at the picturesque Millbrook Resort, with the other being the Coronet course.


Also enjoyed a fine run on the Remarkables course were Jinichiro Kozuma and Terumiuchi Kakazu, who signed for 67s for joint-13th and six off the pace.


Ryosuke Kinoshita, who finished in the top 10 during his previous visit in 2020, opened with a 68 to sit in a share of 33rd along with Mikiya Akutsu, who was the best-performing Japanese on the Coronet course.


Australia's Brad Kennedy kicked off his title defence with a 68 on the Remarkables course.


Ikemura was pleased with how the day panned out for him


"Overall,  it was a good day, my putter was running hot and I didn't miss a single birdie chance," he said.


"Tomorrow I'll play on the Coronet course, so hopefully I can perform just as well as I did today.


"I want to remain at the top all the way to the final day and be in a position to fight for the title."

Asaji, who endured a dismal JGTO campaign last year where he missed 15 cuts to finish at lowly 86th place, is eager to maintain his good start as he looks to secure a morale-boosting result ahead of the new JGTO season.


"I'm glad that I got off to a good start," said the three-time JGTO winner with a smile of relief.


"My goal this week is to play through all four days of the tournament. My game is in good shape and I hope to ride on my short game to go low again for the days to come.


"Let's see if it's good enough to put me in contention on the final day."