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Friday's golf: Masters champion Matsuyama takes 2nd-round lead at Zozo

Associated Press

Chiba, Japan — Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama overcame cold temperatures and often steady rain showers to shoot a 2-under 68 Friday and take a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the PGA Tour's Zozo Championship.

Matsuyama, who trailed by a stroke after the first round following a 64 on the par-70, 7,041-yard Narashino Country Club course, had a two-round total of 8-under 132.

Temperatures dropped to as low as 12 degrees Celsius (53 Fahrenheit) late in the second round.

Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama plays a shot on the eighth hole during the PGA Tour's Zozo Championship on Narashino Country Club course  in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Friday, Oct, 22, 2021.

Cameron Tringale birdied his final hole for a 66 and was in second place. Matt Wallace birdied his final three holes for a 69 and tied for third with Brendale Steele (68), two behind Matsuyama.

Joaquin Niemann shot 71 after an opening 64 and was tied for fifth, three strokes behind.

“It was tough, I couldn’t feel my hands and it was really cold,” said Niemann, who bogeyed his first two holes.

Matsuyama made his shot of the day Friday from heavy rough on the eighth hole — his 17th — putting his low shot about 20 feet from the pin before watching his birdie putt drift just right, On his final hole, he left another birdie putt short.

Two days ago at his pre-event media conference, Matsuyama foreshadowed a strong performance despite some recent mediocre finishes.

“If my game scored 10 out of 10 at the Masters, now I would say it scores less than 1," he said. “I will be struggling this week, but I am here in Japan, so I am motivated to be in contention.”

Hiroshi Iwata, who led by one stroke after the first round, just missed an eagle putt on the 18th and finished with a birdie for a 73 and was four behind Matsuyama.

British Open champion Collin Morikawa shot 68 and was seven strokes behind.

Tokyo Olympic gold medal winner Xander Schauffele, playing in the same group at Matsuyama, shot 74 and was 12 strokes behind the Japanese star.

Only three of the top 20 in the world are playing in Chiba, the PGA Tour’s only stop on the Asia swing.

LPGA

Busan, South Korea — Hee Jeong Lim shot a 6-under 66 and first-round leader Na Rin An a 69 to leave the South Korean players tied for the lead after two rounds of the LPGA Tour’s BMW Ladies Championship on Friday.

Lim and An had 11-under totals of 133 on the par-72 LPGA International Busan course.

American Danielle Kang shot 68 and In Gee Chun 69 and were tied for third, one stroke behind.

Jin Young Ko missed extending an LPGA scoring record on Thursday but started a new one on Friday.

Ko had 14 straight rounds in the 60s, tying her with Annika Sorenstam (2005) and So Yeon Ryu (2015-17) for the most in tour history, going into the first round. But Ko finished with a 1-under 71 on Thursday.

On Friday, Ko moved back into contention with a bogey-free 64 to leave her in fifth place, two behind the leaders.

“My friends and even my parents gave me a lot of encouragement yesterday after my streak in the 60s came to an end," Ko said.

No. 2-ranked Ko said a chip-in birdie at the start Friday led to “everything coming together.” She continued her roll, ending the day with seven more birdies, including one on her final hole, the ninth, and 24 putts compared to 33 in the first round.

“I think whenever I play, I try to receive feedback immediately, so what went well and what didn’t go so well. So I tried to receive that. And I think I personally always aim for perfection,” said Ko, who is tied with world No. 1 Nelly Korda with three wins on tour this season.

Kang, whose father was born in Busan, said she received some help from her coach, Butch Harmon.

“I’ve been working on a lot of good things. And I called Butch, my fairy godfather, today because he waved the wand and fixed something that I’ve been working on for a while,” said Kang.

The BMW Ladies Championship is the only Asia event in the so-called fall season. The LPGA started out with a four-tournament Asia swing until events in Shanghai, Japan, and Taiwan were either canceled or removed from the schedule due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

PGA Tour Champions

Richmond, Va. — Steven Alker shot a 9-under 63 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, the first of three PGA Tour Champions playoff events.

Alker had a bogey-free round on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course, making nine birdies in a 12-hole stretch from No. 12 to No. 5. The 50-year-old New Zealander is 55th in the season standings.

“It’s a new chapter for me coming from Korn Ferry and playing with those young guys — big, strong, hitting it forever,” Alker said. “So in places I was competitive out there, but I’m kind of maybe a little more competitive out here. My game’s just coming around at the right time. You’ve still got to play golf and shoot the scores.”

Steve Flesch was a stroke back. He closed with a birdie on the par-4 18th.

“I’ve been putting great and I’m not overthinking anything, which is the magic deal,” Flesch said. “I literally am playing golf like I played basketball. When I got the ball, I just shot it, and that’s how I’m playing golf. I’m taking like one look with the putter and I’m going. I’m not giving myself any time to clutter up my melon.”

Charles Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer, the 2017 winner in Richmond, was three strokes back at 66 with Bob Estes, Stephen Ames, Doug Barron and Matt Gogel.

Jim Furyk opened with a 69.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson shot 71, making a double bogey in the par-3 fourth. He won the Constellation Furyk and Friends two weeks ago in Florida for his third senior victory in four career starts.

European Tour

Santa Ponsa, Spain — Bryce Easton was leading the Mallorca Open on Friday when the second round was suspended because of darkness on the Mediterranean island.

Easton had a four-shot lead when play was stopped with the South African still to finish the 18th hole. Easton was 4 under on the windy day at the Santa Ponsa course after making four birdies to go with one bogey on the par-4 14th. That took him to 11 under overall.

“Overall, very happy with how today went,” Easton said. “There were a lot of cross winds. ... It was a tricky day.”

First-round leader Jeff Winther of Denmark was four shots back after a 1-over 71, tied for second with Spanish trio Álvaro Quiros, Sebastián García and Jorge Campillo, who all finished their second round.

Another seven golfers are another shot back.

The second round will resume at 9 a.m. local time on Saturday.

The Mallorca Open is the third and final event of the European Tour’s Spain swing.