Collin Morikawa returned to action after the Ryder Cup and grabbed a one-shot opening-round lead at the PGA Tour’s Zozo Championship in Japan on Thursday.
The twice Major winner took a short break after being part of the American team that failed to retain the Ryder Cup following a poor start in Rome last month.
Morikawa said “you never know what you’re going to get” after taking time off but he shot a bogey-free six-under 64 to top the early leaderboard at Narashino Country Club.
“I’ve been working on a few things, trying to get control of the golf ball, spent a lot of time putting yesterday,” said Morikawa, who is looking for his first win on the PGA Tour since 2021. “It’s nice to see the work I’ve put in, just kind of recreate that on the golf course.”
Morikawa’s Ryder Cup teammates Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler were also back in competition at the 78-man, no-cut event on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Schauffele carded a three-under 67, while Fowler was further back after a one-over 71.
Schauffele has yet to win a title this season but he said he was happy with a “pretty solid” opening round that saw him birdie all three of the course’s par-five holes.
“I’m happy with how I’m driving it, happy with how I’m rolling it – just need to tighten up some of the dispersion from the fairway,” he said. “With the greens being soft, you feel like you can be really aggressive.”
Defending champion Keegan Bradley, who was passed over for the United States’ Ryder Cup team, joined Schauffele on three under.
Fowler, who finished in a share of second place behind Bradley last year, struggled to make an impact and finished with two bogeys to one lone birdie.
Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama fared better, shooting a one-under 69.
Matsuyama, the 2021 champion, carded three bogeys but had an eagle on the 14th hole to go with a pair of birdies.
South Africa’s Garrick Higgo is bottom of the leaderboard after carding a 12-over 82.
The $8.5-million Zozo Championship was established in 2019 as the first PGA Tour tournament in Japan.
Thousands of Japanese fans turned up to watch Tiger Woods win the inaugural title for his 82nd PGA Tour victory – equalling Sam Snead’s 54-year-old record.
© Agence France-Presse