Experienced Tsukada basks with a 69

Fri 18 Jul 2014

Experienced Tsukada basks with a 69

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Hoylake, July 17: Japan’s Yoshinobu Tsukada remembers clearly his Open Championship debut some 10 years ago but it was for wrong reasons.
The 45-year-old Asian Tour member said he choked and shook with nerves in a truncated appearance in the world’s oldest Major at Royal Troon.
Fast forward a decade and Tsukada was basking in the sunshine at Royal Liverpool on Thursday after firing a three-under-par 69 in the opening round to lie three shots behind early leader Rory McIlroy.
Part of Tsukada’s turn in fortunes was due to the fact that he did not find a single pot bunker at Royal Liverpool. But the main change has been a new-found self-belief following a career breakthrough victory in Japan last season.
“I hit some good shots and also got lucky as I didn’t find any bunkers. That’s the key around here. I won a tournament in Japan last year which helps. Now, I feel more comfortable and I know what to do on the golf course. I guess I have more experience and my course management seems better now,” said Tsukada, who shot five birdies against two bogeys.
Tsukada earned his third appearance at the Open Championship through the Open Qualifying Series in Thailand earlier this season. He missed the cut in his first two Opens but today’s round has put him in good company alongside the likes of Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler.
“When I came to the Open 10 years ago, I wasn’t too sure how to play here.  We don’t have courses like this in Japan. It’s just one week of the year that we come here. Sometimes, it’s hard to play on this type of courses. When I played my first Open, I choked. I was shaking all the time. Now, I feel my concentration is now much better. It’s different now,” he said.
“Now, I know I can win golf tournaments. Winning has given me confidence and it’s helped me a lot.”
He has put in some good preparation to ensure he becomes third time lucky at The Open. “After I qualified, I’ve changed my clubs and checked my swing to prepare for this event,” said Tsukada, who registered three top-10s over the years on the Asian Tour.
“I changed my irons. Before, they were easy clubs for amateurs and it didn’t give me any spin. I’ve changed them to get more spin as the course here is hard and fast. I wanted some control.
“I only hit four drivers out there. The first day I came here, I think I shot something like 85 in the first practice round. Of course it was only a practice round but you’ve got find a way on this course,” added the world number 508.
Countryman Koumei Oda, who was a member of Team Asia which drew with Europe in the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Malaysia in March, and the highly rated Hideki Matsuyama also shot 69s to feature on the leaderboard.
Oda opened with two bogeys before finding his range with his iron play to bounce back with five birdies. “I didn’t start too well with bogeys on one and two. Three under total is very good for me. On five, my tee shot was in the trees and unplayable but I managed to get birdie. It gave me a good feeling and on the back nine, I hit a few birdies. My irons had a good feeling,” said the Japanese, who currently leads his home tour’s merit list.
About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Abacus (Official Apparel Partner), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Sponsor), Oakley (Official Eyewear and Footwear Sponsor), Saxo Capital Markets (Official Statistics Partner), Singha Beer (Official Beer), Srixon (Official Ball) and Rolex (Official Timekeeper). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Also, visit us at www.asiantour.com, www.facebook.com/asiantourgolf, www.twitter.com/asiantourgolf, www.youtube.com/theasiantour and www.weibo.com/asiantourgolf.