Ryo Hisatsune began the week with six successive birdies as he posted a stunning 64 to lead by two shots after the first round of the 2023 Ras Al Khaimah Championship.
The DP World Tour Qualifying School graduate made the most of favourable scoring conditions at Al Hamra Golf Club on Thursday, firing nine birdies before dropping his only shot of the day at the 18th after an errant tee-shot to finish on eight under par.
The Japanese 20-year-old got his early birdie run started with a tap-in at the first before holing from 17 feet for another on the second. He then took advantage of the long third for a hat-trick of birdies and sent his tee-shot at the par-three fourth to eight feet before holing the putt.
He then holed a five-footer at the fifth before making it six in a row on the sixth, with further birdies coming on the eighth, 10th and 15th, before his sole dropped shot on the last.
Hisatsune, who finished in a tie for second at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship back in November, is two shots ahead of Dane Rasmus Højgaard, Italian Edoardo Molinari and England’s Matthew Baldwin.
Ryan Fox, who tasted success in Ras Al Khaimah last year, was another stroke further back on five under along with Callum Shinkwin, Alexander Björk, Kazuki Higa, Oliver Bekker and Oliver Hundebøll.
Ryo Hisatsune: “It was so unreal. I was just hitting shots, holing putts. Every time I made it. It was so amazing. It’s the first time I’ve had six birdies in a row. It’s my first event of the year and I was a little nervous at the start, but it was an easy start. So lucky.
“(After that start) I thought keep going. On the back nine there are some tough holes. I had to keep making shots, making pars. On the last hole I was so nervous, but it was just a bogey so OK for me.
“Last year I went to DP World Tour Q School, and played mainly on the Japan Tour, but no wins. I want to get off to a great start this year.”
Rasmus Højgaard: “Probably not as good as it sounds, it wasn’t as pretty on the course as it was on the score card. I managed to get away with a few shots and holed a few good putts. Overall it was a very good day.
“It’s not 100% cleared up (shoulder injury), but I can manage it now. I’ve got full speed so I can play but have to be careful about not practising too much. It’s getting better day by day.
“We have the statistics from Edoardo (Molinari). Just trying to make a plan on how we can improve the average scoring. There are a couple of things that stood out tat we have to improve. Driving is one of them. I’ve gained a bit off distance over the off season but need to hit a little straighter.”
Edoardo Molinari: Today I made some putts for a change. I feel like I’ve been playing well the last couple of weeks, especially last week I hit the ball well but just couldn’t read the greens. This week so far it seems better.
“It’s more challenging than last year. There is more rough, they have narrowed down some of the fairways. There is one new tee on 13, which makes a huge difference for a guy like me. Last year I couldn’t reach the greens. Up against Nicolai (Højgaard) and Ryan (Fox) you feel like you are almost starting half a shot behind every day, so it does make a difference. I’m enjoying it.
“The game is improving. I’m getting older but I’m getting better. I go week by week. It’s going to be a long year with the Ryder Cup and I would like to play a few more Majors. If I sneak in a win or two, that would be nice.”
Matthew Baldwin: “First round of the year, you don’t know what you’re going to get. It was very pleasing. You’ve got to keep it out of the rough. Fortunately the times I did hit it in the rough I had a good lie.
“I had 270 to the pin (for the eagle on 18), I knew that if I pitched my two iron and I was on the green it was going to release, and it released up to about two inches.
“You’ve got to keep the ball on the fairway or you’re struggling because you don’t know how it’s going to react. The greens are very good, you can hole putts. The set up is quite tricky so you’ve got to be sensible a lot of the time, and when you have an opportunity to go at a flag you’ve got to take it.”
Ryan Fox: “It was relatively easy. It’s a lot tougher this year, the rough is up, had a breeze this morning, the greens are firm. Feels like the fairways are almost impossible to hit in places, think we hit ten as a group and felt like we drove it OK.
“I felt like there were a lot of good shots, holed some putts. Probably left a few shots out there on the greens but also made some birdies out of the rough which is a bit of a bonus.”