Jason Day shoots 66, trails by 2 strokes at CJ Cup

Jason Day shoots 66, trails by 2 strokes at CJ Cup

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South Korea Golf CJ Cup

Jason Day watches his shot on the first hole during Thursday's first round of the CJ Cup PGA golf tournament at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island, South Korea. 

Jason Day's attempt to impress International team captain Ernie Els for a spot at the Presidents Cup took a positive turn on Thursday when the Australian shot a 6-under 66 to sit two strokes off the lead after the opening round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.

In the first event of a three-tournament PGA Tour swing through Asia, Byeong Hun An took the lead with a 64 with Joaquin Niemann a stroke behind in second. Day was alone in third place.

Day is hoping Els will chose him as a captain's pick for the International team against the Tiger Woods-captained U.S. team in December at Royal Melbourne.

"Overall, it's a great start," Day said. "I'm excited for the rest of the week."

He said before his first round that he was still hoping for a Presidents Cup spot.

"It is certainly disappointing not to make the team on my own merits. But it is a reminder that nothing is given to you in this game," Day said.

"I certainly want to be on the team and believe I can be an asset to the Internationals. Being in my home country certainly gives me an edge and I've had some success on the sand-belt (courses) and Royal Melbourne in the past."

Defending champion Brooks Koepka shot a 69 with an eagle on the 18th, his final hole, Last year's runner-up Gary Woodland had a 71.

Justin Thomas, who won the inaugural 2017 CJ Cup, shot 68 and Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth each shot 70. Spieth is looking to end a lengthy drought — he hasn't won since the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale, a span of 54 tournaments worldwide.

"Overall a good way to start. I felt I played a lot better than my score," Thomas said. "Anytime you play where you've won before, it creates a lot of good memories."

Kevin Na, who won in a playoff in Las Vegas two weeks ago, had a 72 and Sergio Garcia shot 73.

There are 78 players in the no-cut, limited-field event.

The top-ranked Koepka stirred some controversy on Wednesday when he pointed out that Rory McIlroy, his closest challenger for the No. 1 ranking, hasn't won a major since the American joined the PGA Tour in 2015. He was responding to a question about a rivalry between the pair.

"I'm not looking at anybody behind me. I'm No. 1 in the world," Koepka said. "I've got open road in front of me. I'm not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don't see it as a rivalry. I've been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn't won a major since I've been on the PGA Tour."

LPGA

Sahred lead in Shanghai: Nasa Hataoka birdied three of the final six holes for a 5-under 67 and a share of the first-round lead with Amy Yang on Thursday in the Buick LPGA Shanghai, the first of four straight events in Asia.

Hataoka won the Kia Classic in California in March and has finished in the top seven in her last events on the LPGA and JLPGA circuits, winning JLPGA majors at the Japan LPGA Championship Konica Minolta Cup and Japan Women's Open.

Making her first appearance in the event, the 20-year-old Japanese player birdied three of the four par-5 holes at Qizhong Garden.

"The par 5s are very short this week, so I feel like I make a birdie on par 5 I can kind of keep going," Hataoka said through a translator.

Yang, from South Korea, matched Hataoka with six birdies and a bogey.

"I'm happy how I played," said Yang, the Honda LPGA Thailand winner in February for her fourth career LPGA victory. "My swing felt very stable out there and hit some lot of solid shots out there and making some good putts, so it's been a good round."

Americans Jessica Korda and Angel Yin shot 68. Korda is making her first start since Solheim Cup.

"A little rusty with a couple shots," said Korda, 3-0-1 last month in Scotland in the United States' loss to Europe. "I'm going to go to the driving range and try to figure that out a little bit," said Korda of her performance. "But, yeah, I was really proud of myself today. Speed of the greens was changing a lot. Definitely got a lot faster at the end, but I was able to keep it together."

Defending champion Danielle Kang was at 69 with Brooke Henderson, Lydia Ko, Jennifer Kupcho, Mel Reid, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Bronte Law. Chinese star Shanshan Feng opened with a 70.

American Brittany Altomare had a hole-in-one on the 175-yard second hole in a 70. She used a 6-iron.

"I just came off a couple holes that didn't really go my way and I felt good about the club that I had," Altomare said. "Made a really good swing finally and went right where I wanted to and went in the hole."

She won a Buick Lacrosse Avenir.

Top-ranked Jin Young Ko, coming off a victory last week on the Korean LPGA Tour, had four birdies and four bogeys in a 72. She's making her first start on the LPGA Tour since the Cambia Portland Classic six weeks ago.

Cheyenne Knight had a 75. The Texan won the final full-field event two weeks ago outside Dallas to qualify for the Asian Swing events and avoid a trip to the LPGA qualifying series.

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