Courtesy of Japan Golf Tour

Australia’s Anthony Quayle picked up right where he left off last week by blazing the course for a bogey-free nine-under-par 61 and snatching a two-shot lead after the opening round of The Crowns on Thursday.

The 27-year-old Queensland based Quayle came out with all guns blazing at the Nagoya Golf Club’s Wago Course, firing seven birdies in his opening 13 holes, igniting a thrilling battle chase with Daiki Imano atop the leaderboard.

Quayle had the last laugh when he closed with glorious back-to-back birdies, including one from 45 feet on 17, moving two shots ahead of second-placed Imano.

Koumei Oda and Yuki Inamori both carded matching 64s to share third place, while Yuto Katsuragawa, buoyed by last week’s ISPS HANDA Championship triumph, sits a further shot back in a four-way tie for fifth place, which comprised of the Korean duo Dongkyu Jang and Junggon Hwang, the joint-runner up with Quayle in 2018 and compatriot Kota Kaneko.

Quayle was delighted to find himself returning to a prime position in the same tournament after four years. In 2018, the Australian shared the first round lead with Rikuya Hoshino following a 65 before finishing runner-up.

“It was a fun day. It feels really comfortable to be able to hit the kind of golf shots around here. And I’ve had some good performances here, so I feel very relaxed around here,” said Quayle, who also came in tied fifth in 2019.

Quayle has now gone 28-under through 90 holes after posting a fifth straight sub-70 round. In Ibaraki last week, he fired a weekend pair of 64 and 65 to finish joint sixth.

But he is taking nothing for granted, knowing that he needs to secure four consistent low rounds if he is to secure his maiden JGTO breakthrough victory this week.

“Last week’s performance has definitely allowed me to free up my game a little,” added Quayle.

“The last time I shot a nine-under (on the par-72 course) in a tournament was on the European Tour at the Fiji international in 2018.

“I’ve won a couple of times in Australia since then, and I also had a few leads in Japan. Being in this position doesn’t add more pressure (to win). It’ll happen eventually, I believe, so this is just another opportunity to do it.”

Qualifying Tour winner Andrew Evans responded superbly to his missed cut last week with an opening 66 to tie for ninth spot with fellow Australian Brad Kennedy and another international competitor, Todd Baek of the United States.

Evans mixed five birdies with a lone blemish on 16 to begin his pursuit of another good result after coming in joint 19th at the Kansai Open.

“I’m very pleased with myself as I’m playing both a new course and tournament this week. The weather was perfect for scoring,” said Evans.

“I played great and gave myself a lot of chances. Hopefully, I can keep this momentum going.”