Japan’s Taiga roars with 64 to trail leader Wallace by one at CJ CUP -

Japan’s Taiga roars with 64 to trail leader Wallace by one at CJ CUP

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Taiga Semikawa of Japan plays his shot. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Khel Today bureau 

McKinney, TX: Named after Tiger Woods, Japan’s rising star Taiga Semikawa is once again showing his stripes following an opening 7-under 64 in THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson on Thursday to trail leader Matt Wallace of England by one stroke.

Wallace, who has won once on the PGA Tour, shot 63. After being 5-under through six holes to start his round, the Englishman produced a bogey-free 8-under 63, his career-low score on the PGA TOUR.

This is the second time he holds an 18-hole lead or co-lead. He takes the No. 1 spot in the Aon Swing 5 where the top five FedExCup points earners from the Corales Puntacana Championship, Zurich Classic of New Orleans, and THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson will earn spots in the Wells Fargo Championship

Korea’s K.H. Lee, who won the tournament back-to-back in 2021-22, and Byeong Hun An, the highest ranked Korean on the FedExCup points list, opened with matching 66s at TPC Craig Ranch while defending champion Jason Day also shot a 66 in the weather-delayed first day which nine players failed to complete their rounds.

The 23-year-old Semikawa, a former world amateur No. 1 and a four-time winner in Japan, hit eight birdies against a lone bogey as he made the most of a sponsor’s exemption to feature on the leaderboard.

“My putting felt pretty good coming off from last week and even though there was an hour delay, I didn’t feel any nerves and was able to just play my own golf. My driver was great. The feeling I had off the tee is what I usually feel when I’m striking it well. I’m excited to see how things go tomorrow,” said Semikawa, who finished tied 24th in the DP World Tour’s ISPS Handa Championship in Japan last weekend.

“There weren’t many dry spots on the course, but fortunately I was able to find the fairway quite often and because we were playing preferred lies, I was able to set myself up, so I was lucky in that regard.”

Like many other top Japanese golfers including nine-time PGA TOUR winner Hideki Matsuyama, Semikawa attended Tohoku Fukushi University during his amateur days and made history in 2022 by becoming the first amateur to win the Japan Open since the tournament’s inception in 1927. He has featured in four PGA TOUR events this year, making the cut in three and was in contention at the Sony Open in Hawaii after 54 holes before settling for a T30 finish.

With TPC Craig Ranch yielding low scores – a total of 116 players were in the red when play was suspended due to darkness – Semikawa knows he needs to keep attacking the pins to stick close to the leaders, and live up to his first name. “I’d like to continue making a lot of birdies like today. But I’m not going to worry about what position I’m in and just try and keep up the same play as I did today,” he said.

Earlier in the year when Semikawa played his way into contention in Hawaii early, he told the media how he was given his first name. “I was named after Tiger Woods and I kind of took on the way he plays. I grew up watching his aggressive style, and I think that kind of fits my personality and is something I try and replicate in my own game,” said Semikawa.

Feeling right at home this week following his two victories at TPC Craig Ranch and due to the fact that one of his sponsor, CJ Group, has evolved into the title sponsor of THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson, Korea’s Lee fought his way into contention despite making a double bogey on the 11th hole. “I’m quite pleased with my score. I got into some trouble on 11 but I was really happy with the way I fought back with those birdies in the end,” said the two-time PGA TOUR winner, who birdied five of his closing seven holes.

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