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ADELAIDE, Australia: After shooting a bogey-free 9-under 63 to grab the first-round lead at LIV Golf Adelaide, Iron Heads GC’s Jinichiro Kozuma credited his putting prowess with helping him get through “some troubles here and there.”

 His teammate and Friday playing partner Danny Lee, sitting next to Kozuma during the post-round press conference, was perplexed. “Trouble? What trouble?”

Indeed, the 29-year-old Kozuma seemed to have almost no trouble during the first round at The Grange Golf Club. He was 8 under after his first 11 holes and never gave up the lead on a day of low scoring before enthusiastic jampacked crowds at The Grange.

Kozuma will take a one-shot advantage into Saturday’s second round over Lee and Torque GC’s Carlos Ortiz. Four players are tied for fourth, two shots back – Mito Pereira (Torque), Peter Uihlein (RangeGoats GC), Andy Ogletree (HyFlyers GC) and Anirban Lahiri (Crushers GC).

Torque GC owns the team lead by shooting 20 under, the lowest first-round counting score by any team this year. Besides the contributions from Ortiz and Pereira, captain Joaquin Niemann — who leads the Individual Championship standings this season thanks to two individual wins — contributed a 67.

The Iron Heads are one shot back in second, while HyFlyers GC is third at 17 under. Crushers GC, who lead the season-long team race, are in fourth at 16 under. The hometown favorites Ripper GC, captained by Cameron Smith, are fifth at 15 under.

Kozuma, who’s in his first full year in LIV Golf after earning a spot via the Promotions tournament during the offseason, is leading for the first time after any round in his nine LIV Golf starts. His family is attending its first LIV Golf tournament this week to watch him play.

“I wanted to play really well in front of my family and impress all the family,” said Kozuma, whose round was highlighted by a 40-foot eagle putt. “I guess I got to do that, and I’m really happy about that.”

Non-captain teammates played together in the same group on Friday, and Kozuma and Lee will be together again in Saturday’s second round. They hope it will lead to another day of feeding off
each other.

“Whatever I was doing today and whatever Jinny was doing today worked out pretty good,” said Lee, the winner last year in Tucson. “We’re going to just enjoy each other’s company and keep our head down, keep making putts.”

Ortiz and Pereira also excelled together in the all-Torque group.

“It was really nice playing with these guys,” Ortiz said. “They holed out two holes in a row, so it felt like we were getting some momentum our way. Really happy the way I played, and just get it going.”

Kozuma, Lee, Pereira and Ogletree are among eight individual players who have yet to produce points (top 24 finish) through the first five tournaments this season. That they posted strong opening rounds at Adelaide is an indication that better results may be on
the horizon.

“Not the start (to this season) that I would like,” said Pereira, who finished eighth in the season-long standings last year. “… But trying to work hard to get my game back where it was last year, or
even better.”

For Kozuma and Lee, the focus for the next two rounds is not on points but just playing well and building on the momentum of Friday’s hot start.

“You can’t get too caught up in that kind of stuff,” said Lee, who was slowed by offseason surgery on his wrist. “I feel like that’s only putting a lot of pressure on yourself, so you’ve just got to let it go and keep your head down and just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Added Kozuma: “I don’t want to think too much about the points. I want to just enjoy where I’m at right now and play.”

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