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Japan's Hiroshi Iwata leads Zozo Championship; Hideki Matsuyama 1 back

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CHIBA, Japan – Japan's Hiroshi Iwata shot a 7-under 63 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the PGA Tour’s Zozo Championship.

Iwata had a one-stroke lead over Joaquin Niemann and 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama on the par-70, 7,041-yard Narashino Country Club course.

Defending champion Patrick Cantlay is taking the rest of the year off and is not playing in what has turned out to be the only PGA Tour event on the Asia swing. Only three of the top 20 in the world are playing in Chiba.

Full-field scores from the Zozo Championship

Tokyo Olympics gold medal winner Xander Schauffele shot 70, as did Rickie Fowler, who is playing on a sponsor’s exemption for the second straight year.

Open champion Collin Morikawa shot 71.

Iwata, 40, is making his first PGA Tour start since 2017. He competed 10 times on Tour in the 2016-17 season, missing eight cuts. On Thursday, he made six birdies, one bogey and eagled the par-5 18th for the outright lead.

Early-week diss motivates Iwata to Zozo lead

As the 161st-ranked player in the world, Hiroshi Iwata is not a recognizable figure or a household name – even in his homeland.

This is the third staging of this event. Last year's edition, won by Cantlay, was held at Sherwood Country Club in California, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Tiger Woods won his 82nd career PGA Tour title at Narashino in 2019.

Information in this article was used from The Associated Press.