No. 1-ranked Japanese amateur takes Australian Open lead

December 4, 2019

SYDNEY (AP) — World No. 1-ranked amateur Takumi Kanaya birdied his final two holes Thursday for a 6-under 65 and a two-stroke clubhouse lead at the Australian Open.

Playing the back nine at The Australian Golf Course to open his round, the Japanese player had five birdies. He bogeyed the par-4 third hole before making birdie on the eighth and ninth holes.

One of Kanaya's first rounds at The Australian was an 85 in 2015 "so I learned The Australian golf style."

''I had a good start, the front nine but back nine is difficult,'' he said. I was lucky, I made a 30-foot putt for par.''

Former champion Matt Jones was among those tied for second with a 67. Presidents Cup International player Marc Leishman shot 69 and was four behind.

‘’I played pretty good, hit some really good shots and hit some stinkers, but coming off a month off you probably expect that,'''Leishman said. ‘’It wasn’t the ideal start.'

The threesome of Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey had an afternoon start, as did Louis Oosthuizen in the group behind, and Ernie Els in the following group. Scott and Oosthuizen are also playing for the International Team at next week's Presidents Cup at Royal and Els is the team captain.

The tournament got under way Thursday under clearer skies after Sydney's smoke haze had threatened to cause health issues for some of the players and spectators. After two days of smog, a sea breeze helped improve air quality for the first round.

But Jones still wasn't happy with the smog.

‘’It's awful," Jones said. "I'm not sure what the forecast is not good at all. It's tough to see your golf ball when you're out there playing, where it finishes. Your eyes do burn up. It's not fun. I hope my kids are inside in the hotel room."


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