Kuwaki, Hataoka share lead at Toto Japan Classic


Shiho Kuwaki carded her second straight 7-under-par 65 on Friday to seize a share of the lead at the Toto Japan Classic in Omitama, Japan.

Kuwaki is tied with fellow Japan native Nasa Hataoka (66 on Friday) at 14-under. They are 2 strokes ahead of China’s Xiyu Lin (66) and Japan’s Mone Inami (68) and first-round leader Akie Iwai (69) at the Taiheiyo Club, Minori Course.

Kuwaki made seven birdies — including in each of the final two holes — to cap her second bogey-free round.

“Yes, my shots are pretty steady this week,” Kuwaki said. “I have a lot of birdie opportunities. Everything goes very smoothly … I got something good feeling during the round [on Thursday] and kept that momentum.”

Hataoka recorded five of her seven birdies on the front nine. She overcame a bogey on No. 10 with birdies on Nos. 12 and 17 to take her third overnight lead or co-lead of the 2023 season.

“I am very happy I shot a 6-under today,” Hataoka said. “I play good today. Still, my putting was good but my tee shot was only six time hit on the fairway so I need to improve my long game. … [On putting] I just focus on start line and speed control.”

Hataoka admitted the familiarity of the Taiheiyo Club and playing in front of the home crowd served her well.

“I play a couple of times,” she said. “My home course is right next to this golf course, like 10 minutes from here, so very similar golf course. I have practiced a lot this area. … This weekend my friends and family more coming so I will do my best.”

Lin overcame some shoulder discomfort to card her second bogey-free round of the tournament and eighth of the season.

“I struggled with my shoulder a little bit in the morning, so I definitely didn’t expect this to happen when I was hitting balls on the range because I was hitting them pretty poorly,” Lin said. “But I think it get better throughout the day and I hit lots [of] quality shots and I think overall it’s a really good round.”

Inami also notched her second bogey-free round of the tourney.

Japan’s Sora Kamiya [67] sits alone in sixth place at 11-under, 1 shot ahead of an eight-golfer contingent.

Defending champion Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland shot a 69 to reside in a tie for 22nd place.

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