Trio tied at the top in Japan

Akene Iijima, Hwang Ah-reum and Teresa Lu share the lead after round one of the LPGA’s Mizuno Classic in Japan.

Japan’s Akene Iijima, South Korea’s Hwang Ah-reum and Taiwan’s Teresa Lu share the lead on six under after round one of the LPGA’s Mizuno Classic in Japan.

Each opened with a six-under par 66 on Friday to lead by one shot over another Japanese golfer, Momoko Ueda, who was alone in fourth after a 67.

A group of seven golfers that includes Catriona Matthew of Britain and American Stacey Lewis, who made six birdies in her round, are joint fifth on four under after rounds of 68.

Local girl Iijima, chasing her first win of the year and seventh overall, started strongly with a birdie at the par-four fourth, where she holed a 18-foot putt, but she really took off at the par-three 11th, starting a run of three consecutive birdies that she promptly followed up with two more at the 15th and 17th.

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

Iijima is eyeing a possible permanent spot on the LPGA tour for next year if she can emerge with a win this week.

“If I win, maybe I would have a chance to play in the U.S. LPGA,” she said. “If I have a chance to go to the U.S. next spring, that would be good.”

Jiyai Shin, the defending champion, opened with a 69 to lie on three under, three shots back.

“It was good because I didn’t made any mistakes, but I think I need more birdies in the next two days,” she said.

The Mizuno Classic is the last event of a four-tournament swing for the LPGA in Asia. It is co-sanctioned by the LPGA Tour and the Japan LPGA Tour.