Kansai Open Golf Championship 2024

Norris, De Los Santos and Baek off to solid start at Kansai Open Golf Championship

Norris, De Los Santos and Baek off to solid start at Kansai Open Golf Championship​

Six-time JGTO winner Shaun Norris of South Africa is among a group of three international players who kickstarted their campaign at the Kansai Open Golf Championship on Thursday with a one-under-par 69, lying three shots off the pace.

Norris, along with Justin De Los Santos of the Philippines and American Todd Baek, was tied for 17th spot at the Meishin Yokaichi Country Club in Shiga Prefecture.

Local trio Shun Nimura, Taisei Shimizu, and Taisei Sato sit atop the 148-man congested leaderboard with matching 66s, giving them a one-shot lead over a group of six players tied for fourth, including 2019 winner Tomohoru Otsuki.

Norris had a mixed day, shooting six birdies against five dropped shots, including an uncharacteristic triple bogey at the par-four 14th hole.

The 42-year-old has been bidding to return to winning ways after last tasting success at the Japan Open in 2021. 

Norris has shown solid consistency thus far this season, claiming two top-20 finishes in three appearances, including a tied 17th at last week's For The Players by The Players. 

However, his past record in this tournament has not been kind to him, having failed to make it to the weekend rounds over the last three years.

De Los Santos, meanwhile, will look to continue trending in the right direction after finishing a morale-boosting tied-15th last week, which was the first cut he made in the new season. 

With a solid opening effort, the 28-year-old has set himself up for another chance to make further headway.

Similarly, Baek, still winless on the JGTO, will be hoping to ride on the positive start to mount a strong challenge for the breakthrough he's been longing for. 

It has not been exactly a smooth start for Baek, with his best finish being a tied-17th at the Token Homemate Cup. 

The 32-year-old fared poorly in the second round of that tournament, shooting a 79 and missing the cut. 

Baek was last in genuine contention at the Casio World Open in November last year, where he was tied for the lead in the penultimate stage but ultimately settled for joint seventh.

Leading first round scores:

66: Shun Nimura, Taisei Shimizu, Taisei Sato;

67: Satoshi Hara, Shintaro Kobayashi, Tomoyasu Sugiyama, Mikumu Horikawa, Shinichi Yokota, Tomoharu Otsuki;

68: Yujiro Ohori, Tomohiro Ishizaka, Shota Ueki, Taiga Nagano, Shingo Katayama, Yuta Sugiura, Daiki Imano.