Udorn tied for second, Knutzon ahead by two shots

Thailand's Udorn Duangdecha is joint second after the first round.

Noda City: Thailand's Udorn Duangdecha shot a five-under-par 66 to stay joint second in the first round of the Panasonic Open Japan yesterday.

Udorn and Japan's Satoshi Kodaira were tied for second, two strokes behind Jason Knutzon of the US, who fired a 64 in the US$1.37 million event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation.

The 41-year-old American mixed his card with eight birdies and one bogey at the Chiba Country Club.

After going through a difficult year in 2016, Knutzon is hoping his first-round result will now set the tone for what would be a better year in 2017.

Udorn's last win on the Asian Tour came on home soil in 2010, and he earned his place for this week's event by finishing second at another Panasonic-sponsored tournament in Thailand last year.

"Don't be greedy. That's what I've been telling myself," said the Thai.

"If I cannot go for a birdie, just try to make par. I was very lucky with my putting today and that helped. The course conditions are perfect here and they suit my game. I like to hit the ball straight and I've managed to achieve that today. I feel very confident when I play here."

Thailand's Panuphol Pittayarat, who lost his girlfriend in a tragic motorcycle accident recently, overcame the emotional pain barrier to grab a share of fourth place with a 67.

"It was certainly very emotional having to deal with the loss [of his girlfriend of three years]. But it can be a good thing as I'm able to practise my mental strength too," he said.

"I won the tournament in Thailand [on the same week his girlfriend passed away] despite the loss and I'll keep playing the way I did that week for every week from now. I had a strong support and I was not alone in dealing with it. I played good today and I've been striking the ball really well too. I know I've a good chance this week and I'm looking forward to my breakthrough on the Asian Tour."

Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng, a multiple winner in Japan, was four shots back of Knutzon after signing for a 68.

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