Kraft champ Lewis chasing Iijima in Japan


SHIMA, Japan – Japan’s Akane Iijima made five birdies on the back nine to shoot a 6-under 66 on Friday to share the first-round lead with South Korea’s Hwang Ah-reum and Taiwan’s Teresa Lu at the Mizuno Classic.

Japan’s Momoko Ueda was one stroke back in fourth, followed by a group of seven golfers, including Catriona Matthew of Britain and Stacey Lewis of the United States, in joint fifth at 4 under.

Iijima’s first birdie of the day came on the par-4 No. 4 where she sank an 18-foot putt. She made three straight birdies from the par-3 11th and then added two more on Nos. 15 and 17.

“My shots improved on the back nine,” said Iijima, who is seeking her first win since last year and seventh title overall. “In the past, I’ve been able to put my shots within 6 feet of the pin but couldn’t make the putts. But putts from that distance went down for me today and that is why I had a good score.”

Defending champion Jiyai Shin of South Korea was at 3 under.

Lewis, who finished third at last year’s Mizuno Classic, had six birdies to finish with a 68.

The Mizuno Classic is co-sanctioned by the U.S. and Japan LPGA tours. Sunday’s winner will take home $180,000.