SEOUL, South Korea — South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai made a rousing return to the LPGA Tour with a 10-under-par 62 to grab a one-shot lead after the opening round of the BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea.
Buhai, the 2022 Women’s British Open winner from South Africa, took advantage of calm morning conditions on the newly-renovated Seowon Valley Country Club course outside Seoul. But it was a day for low scores – only 10 players in the 78-player, no-cut field were over par.
American Alison Lee was in second place after a 63, followed a stroke back by Ayaka Furue of Japan and Minjee Lee of Australia with 64s.
Collin Morikawa’s last PGA Tour victory was the British Open in 2021, but his 6-under 64 to lead the Zozo Championship after the first round suggests the end of the American’s mini slump might be in sight.
Japanese player Mikumu Horikawa and American rivals Ben Shelton and Eric Cole were among five players just a shot back at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on the outskirts of Tokyo, the only PGA Tour event in Japan.
Morikawa has Japanese ties on his father’s side, though he’s unclear who his distant relatives might be in Japan. His mother’s roots are in Hong Kong.
“There´s obviously a little bit more meaning to this tournament for me,” he said according to AP.
“But look, a win´s a win, I´ll take a win anywhere, right. I´m doing everything I can the next three days and kind of tonight to make sure I give myself the best opportunity to do that.”
Horikawa joked about looking up at the leaderboard and seeing a “kawa” on top – but that was Morikawa, not Horikawa. The suffix or prefix “kawa” means river in Japanese and appears in many Japanese family names and place names.
“So, oh, that´s not me,” Horikawa said. “Oh, I want to catch up with him.”
Morikawa won the PGA Championship in 2020 and followed it with the British Open, his quick fame putting him in demand abroad.
“It’s been nice,” he said. “We´ve kind of been able to travel over here and play golf to just learn a little bit more and kind of reconnect with the culture and essentially my history.”
Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler have not played in three weeks since losing the Ryper Cup to Europe in Italy.
“Taking a few weeks off, you never know what you´re going to get,” Morikawa said. “But I´ve been kind of working on a few things trying to get control of the golf ball. It´s nice to kind of see the work I´ve put in just kind of recreate that on the golf course.”
Morikawa took in one of Tokyo’s most famous sushi restaurants during his stay – Sukiyabashi Jiro – and he said he may never get over it.
“Man, I almost don´t want to have sushi again because it was that special,” Morikawa said. “Chef Jiro was actually making the sushi for us, which made it even that much more special.”
The Zozo field is stacked with Japanese connections and many local players.
Schauffele, three back after a 67, has maternal grandparents living in Tokyo and his mother, Ping Yi, has roots in Taiwan and grew up in Japan. His mother-in-law is also Japanese, and his wife is half Japanese and grew up in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa.
Rickie Fowler’s mother has Japanese roots and his grandfather, Yutaka Tanaka, is Japanese. Kurt Kitayama’s mother was born in Japan, and his father, Clifford, is Japanese-American.