Fit-again Yuta Ikeda operates seamlessly at happy hunting ground

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Yuta Ikeda - TheGolfingHub
Yuta Ikeda showed no signs of being affected by the injury as he powered to a bogey-free round at the Sapporo Golf Club, marking his last seven holes with five birdies. Photo: JGTO

Yuta Ikeda impressed on his return to claim a share of the opening round lead at ANA Open Golf Tournament on Thursday after firing an eight-under-par 64 to tie with Junya Kameshiro, while Thai Gunn Charoenkul led the international charge at four shots back.

The 36-year-old had missed the Fujisankei Classic and Shinhan Donghae Open in the last two weeks due to a neck strain.

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However, Ikeda showed no signs of being affected by the injury as he powered to a bogey-free round at the Sapporo Golf Club, marking his last seven holes with five birdies.

Ikeda was all smiles after getting off to the best possible start on his favourite hunting ground.

His two ANA Open triumphs in 2010 and 2017 accounted for the 21 titles amassed to date, placing him eighth in the all-time list of players with the most JGTO victories.

‘It felt good to be able to make such a start at this ANA Open which I have fond memories of,” said Ikeda, who also birdied holes three, seventh and ninth.

“Frankly, I really hated taking two weeks off, but I’m happy to be able to play with this score on the first day of my comeback.

“It was good that I did not feel rusty after the break. I hit my shots well and the putting was feeling good

“As long as I play comfortably, I know it would lead to such a result.”

Ikeda, however, made no secret that he has yet to heal fully from the injury, which he sustained during the second round of the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational Sega Sammy Cup.

“I started feeling pain in my neck during the second day of Sega Sammy Cup. I didn’t know what caused it. The inflammation got worse over time,” said Ikeda.

“By Saturday, I couldn’t move my neck at all and I immediately seek treatment.

“It’s not only that my neck hurts, but various parts of the body are affected too. It was a struggle from then on and it hasn’t healed.

“Until present, I’m still undergoing treatment. Hopefully, it goes well so that I can keep playing like I did today.”

Surprise package Kameshiro matched Ikeda’s effort with four birdies each on each half to sit in pole position for the first time.

Gunn ended the day as the best international finisher in tied-19th following a steady 68, while American Todd Baek, Australia’s Anthony Quayle, New Zealand Michael Hendry, Dongkyu Jang and Sanghee Lee and Justin De Los Santos were all a shot further back in joint-28th.