ANA Open Golf Tournament 2023

Veteran Norris rolls back the years to trail by two

Veteran Norris rolls back the years to trail by two

South Africa's Shaun Norris reminded his rivals that he's still a force to be reckoned on JGTO when he fired a five-under-par 67 to sit just two shots off the pace at the rain-hit ANA Open Golf Tournament in Hokkaido Prefecture on Thursday.

The 41-year-old, who missed the cut in seven of his 12 starts this season, recorded five birdies to complete a blemish-free round at the Sapporo Golf Club, securing a provisional tie for second place.

Ryuko Tokimatsu shot an impressive 65, taking the clubhouse lead.

The first round of play was halted at 3:06 pm local time due to poor weather conditions, leaving as many as 75 players, particularly those from the afternoon flights, unable to finish.

Before the final halt, play was interrupted twice due to heavy rain, first at 10:40 am and then again at 1:21 pm.

Despite the interruptions, they did little to deter Norris from delivering an excellent performance, marking his best round since June.

"Everything went well today," he remarked.

"If I can keep up this momentum for the next three days and hold the trophy on Sunday, that would be fantastic."

Norris has six victories to his name, notably winning the 2017 Japan Golf Tour Championship and the 2021 Japan Open.

His best seasons were in 2018 and 2019, where he secured the second spot in the money list.

He spent the previous season primarily on the DP World Tour and Sunshine Tour, making only five starts on the JGTO.

However, Norris has since redirected his attention to Japan, noting his exhaustion from constant travel.

"Young players probably don't mind the travelling. Like (Takumi) Kanaya, for instance," he said.

"Just hopping on the Shinkansen [bullet train] will get you to your destination. After all, happiness and peace can be found in Japan."

Norris joked that he needs to up his game to provide for his family.

The father of two quipped, "She (my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter) eats so much, I really have to earn!"

"My son also asks me to bring back some LEGO from Japan every time.

My kids always make me smile. It's the best feeling."

Leading first round scores:

65: Ryuko Tokimatsu;

67: Taiki Yoshida, Shaun Norris (Rsa), Jinichiro Kozuma, Taisei Shimizu;

68: Souta Toriumi, Yuki Inamori;

69: Kazuya Koura, Taihei Sato, Tomoyasu Sugiyama, Hirotaro Naito, Daijiro Izumida, Kodai Ichihara, Lee Sang-hee (Kor), Toshinori Muto.