Gary Hurley is four shots off the pace after the opening round of the ISPS HANDA Championship in Japan as Andy Sullivan and Kim Yeongsu hit the front in PGM Ishioka GC.
Hurley fired a three-under 67 while Sullivan and Yeonsgu are tied at seven-under after rounds of 63. Tom McKibbin and Brendan Lawlor have work to do to make the cut from one-over and eleven-over respectively.
It was a much-needed good start for the Waterford man who has missed four of his last five cuts after what was an encouraging start to his DP World Tour career.
The 30-year-old was level-par after 11 holes after dropping a shot on that hole following a birdie on 7. He finished with a flourish with birdies on 12, 15 and 18 to rise into a share of 31st place.
Four-time DP World Tour champion Sullivan fired eight birdies at with his only blemish a bogey on the seventh.
South Korean Kim, the KPGA’s 2022 Genesis Point Award winner, produced a flawless first round containing seven birdies to join Sullivan on seven under par.
Swede Alexander Björk, Canada’s Aaron Cockerill and South African Deon Germishuys were one shot behind the leaders in a three-way tie for third.
Home favourites Keita Nakajima, Yosuke Asaji and Ryutaro Nagano were then on five under alongside Jacques Kruyswijk, Sebastian Söderberg, Brad Kennedy, Daniel Hillier and Marcel Schneider.
Sullivan started from the tenth tee and made birdies at the 12th, 15th, 16th and 18th to reach the turn in 31.
He then reeled off a hat-trick of birdies from the third before recovering from a bogey on the seventh with a closing gain from around eight feet.
The Englishman said: “Really pleased, just got off to a good start.
“A lot of right flags out there for me to find – as my playing partner Romain Langasque told me! He was like ‘Every flag out there is a right flag and you fade the ball so it’s perfect for you today’.
“It was good fun playing with Brendan (Lawlor) and Romain, very relaxed vibe. It was just like going out there and playing with your mates, really.
“Me and my coach have been working on going back to when I was playing my best, around 2015, 16, so we’ve looked at swings from there and almost tried to mimic that.
“It’s getting close, feel confident with the irons. Driver is still taking a bit of work. On the whole the game is feeling good. It feels a lot more under control again, less of the erratic shots.”
Kim picked up his first birdie of the day at the fourth before catching fire around the turn, as he reeled off six birdies in eight holes from the ninth for a share of the lead.
He said: “I feel good because I didn’t make any bogeys today.
“My shots were not in good shape at the beginning. However, it seems I putted well, so that helped today’s score.
“I hope it goes well tomorrow. I will be able to play with less stress because I played well today.”
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