Hideki Matsuyama gave the fans at Narashino Country Club exactly what they came to see.
Matsuyama, a Japanese national hero, posted a 6-under-par 64 in chilly, rainy weather to take a one-stroke lead over Cameron Tringale of Mission Viejo midway through the Zozo Championship in Chiba, Japan.
“It wasn’t a perfect round, but I played well and I’m happy with it,” said Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champion. “It’s not often that we play in rain and cold at the same time, but I’m happy with the round and it was a good day.
“If my game scored 10 out of 10 at the Masters, now I would say it scores less than one. I will be struggling this week, but I am here in Japan, so I am motivated to be in contention. I’m in a good position, so I’m looking forward to the weekend and will do my best.”
Matsuyama, who claimed eight of his 15 pro victories on the Japan Golf Tour and six on the PGA Tour, had three birdies and one bogey to go with his 15 pars while recording a 36-hole score of 8-under 132.
Tringale, whose only pro victory came with teammate Jason Day of Australia in the 2014 Franklin Templeton Shootout, birdied two of the last four holes to cap a 66, while Brendan Steele of Idyllwild and UC Riverside had two late birdies in a 68 and is two shots behind in a tie for third with Matt Wallace of England, who birdied the last three holes for a 69.
“Well, it was cold on the first hole and rainy on the last hole, but I produced a steady round of golf, really,” said Tringale, who played college golf at Georgia Tech. “I kept it in front of me, I hit a lot of good iron shots.
“The course played really long in this cold weather and being so wet. I just made some nice swings with my irons and kind of left myself in the right positions on these greens and was able to make a few putts. That was the day.”
Tommy Fleetwood of England made three birdies on the back nine in a 68 and is one more down in a tie for fifth with Joaquin Niemann of Chile, who finished at 71.
“It was tough, I couldn’t feel my hands and it was really cold,” said Niemann, who bogeyed his first two holes.
Sebastian Munoz of Colombia had three birdies down the stretch to shoot 66 and is four strokes behind in a tie for seventh with Lanto Griffin (67), Alex Noren of Sweden (68), Troy Merritt (68), Matt Jones of Australia (69) and first-round leader Hiroshi Iwata of Japan (73).
Third-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, the reigning Open champion, is tied for 20th after a 68, fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele, the Olympic Gold Medalist from La Jolla and San Diego State, struggled to a 74 and is tied for 58th, and 2020-21 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Will Zalatoris is tied for 66th after a 76.
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