American Chan Kim got off to an encouraging start in his bid to become a multiple-winner at the Japan Open, carding a three-under-par 67 to trail first-round leader Taiga Semikawa by three shots.
The 32-year-old, who won the event in 2019 for one of his seven victories to date on JGTO, fired four birdies against a lone bogey at the Sanko Golf Club Japan Course to tie for third place with Satoshi Kodaira, the winner of the 2015 edition.
Making his first appearance since his surprise victory at the Panasonic Open last month, promising amateur Semikawa picked up where he left off to shoot a 64 featuring seven birdies and a bogey to finish two shots ahead of second-placed Takumi Kanaya.
Zimbabwe's Scott Vincent ended the day as the second-best placed in international by joining current JGTO Money Ranking leader Kazuki Higa and two-time champion Yuta Ikeda on matching 68s in a share of fifth place.
Major champion Adam Scott of Australia opened his campaign with a modest 71 to finish in a share of 32nd along with other international stars including defending champion Shaun Norris of South Africa, compatriot Anthony Quayle and Justin De Los Santos of the Philippines.
Kim, who has a knack for playing well in the Japan Open, is eager to build on the good start and contend again this year. Including his victory, Kim has finished inside top-15 in all his last four starts since 2016.
"I missed like a couple of putts, but I also made like two really good par putts," Kim said of his round.
"I'm really happy with my round and hopefully, I can take better advantage of the par-fives tomorrow.
"It's nice to be back playing in the Japan Open again. It's a major event, so it's a privilege to be able to win this tournament and it's the one that I look forward to every year.
"Hopefully come Sunday, I'll be teeing in the final group and see what happens from there."
Scott, who's one of the crowd favourites this week, remains upbeat about his chances despite a slow start. He's adamant that he was performing a lot better than the score suggested.
"I'm happy with the way I played, but just a little bit disappointed with my score," said Scott, a serial winner with boast 31 victories worldwide.
"The feeling with my game is good, so I look forward to the next three days.
"I would like to see a few putts going in, I think I had few good chances today. I just didn't quite get the speed and the line together.
"It was unfortunate because I felt I played very well, I'll try my best on the green tomorrow."
"It's always great to play in front of Japanese fans, fantastic atmosphere here, and it will be a lot of fun."
Thai star Sadom Kaewkanjana was the other international star making his presence felt on the opening day when he fired a 69 after mixing an eagle and three birdies with four bogeys.
"I like the narrow course here, that's why I love coming to Japan to compete," said Sadom, a two-time Asian Tour, who made the field under the Official World Golf Ranking top-100 category.
"Before this, I had the chance to play in the JGTO jointly-sanctioned tournaments such as the Diamond Cup and Shinhan Donghae.
"I hope to hit more fairways. If I hit more fairways, I'm confident of getting more chances for birdie."