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Akie Iwai of Japan leads LPGA’s Japan Classic with an opening round 9-under 63

Akie Iwai of Japan shot a 9-under 63 on Thursday to lead the first round of the LPGA’s Toto Japan Classic.

Three other Japanese players — Nasa Hataoka, Yuna Nishimura, and Mone Inami — were a stroke back after rounds of 64 at the Taiheiyo Club in north central Japan.

Defending champion Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland was four back after a 67. American Rose Zhang was four back with a 68 in a very crowded field at the top.

Dryburgh’s victory last year was her first on the LPGA Tour. She also received a special prize — a toilet — for the Japanese sponsor Toto, which makes bathroom appliances and fixtures.

“Hoping for another one of these to add to the collection!” she said on Instagram while posing on Tuesday with the sponsor’s products.

Dryburgh said the victory a year ago changed her career.

“I know I can compete out here and win also,” she said. “Competing under that pressure, seeing the shots that you can do under that pressure as well, it gives you a lot of confidence.”

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