Hoylake, United Kingdom, July 21: Newly-turned professional Keita Nakajima underlined his potential as he emerged as the highest ranked JGTO member by carding a one-over-par 72 on the opening day of the 151st Open on Thursday.
Nakajima, who joined the play-for-pay ranks in September last year and is playing in his second Open, adopted a patient approach as he mixed his card with five bogeys, two birdies and one eagle on the par-five 15th at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
“I could not really get the putts going especially the long ones in the front-nine. When I started my back-nine, I told myself not to rush and managed to play steady golf including that eagle on 15 which delighted the crowds.
“I think the wind will be a little calmer tomorrow, so I will do my best to aim for a better score than today,” said Nakajima.
The 23-year-old is currently in tied-48th place, six shots back of England’s Tommy Fleetwood, Argentinian Emiliano Grillo and South African amateur Christo Lamprecht who carded matching 66s to share the first round lead at the year’s final major, which is played along the Wirral coastline.
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama leads the Japanese charge as he ends day one in a share of 19th position after signing for a 70.
Kazuki Higa, Kazuki Yasumori and Takumi Kanaya returned with opening 73s for a share of 66th place while Rikuya Hoshino and Kensei Hirata posted matching 75s. Hiroshi Iwata and Taiga Semikawa, meanwhile, struggled and signed for identical 77s.
“I thought I did okay at the start, especially with two birdies on holes three and four. But then I began to get stuck in the pot bunkers, missed several short putts and my shots went haywire,” said debutant Semikawa.