sport

Iwata leads in Thailand

Japan's Hiroshi Iwata led the way at four under par after the first round of the Open Championship final qualifying event in Thailand.

The 33-year-old carded 68 at Amata Spring Country Club to lead by one stroke at the halfway stage.

Four players shared second place on three under with nine others a further shot back going into Friday's deciding round, setting up a tight battle for the four qualifying places available for Royal Liverpool in July.

Home player Prom Meesawat was one of the players to shoot 69, along with Iwata's compatriot Akinori Tani, Singapore's Dengshan Koh and Spaniard Carlos Pigem.

Americans Berry Henson and David Lipsky and Australia's Adam Groom were among the group at two under, which also included Taiwanese amateur Cheng-Tsung Pan.

Former Open participants Mardan Mamat, at one under, and Prayad Marksaeng and Ashun Wu at level par were all in contention but China's Liang Wenchong was two over.

Mamat's round contained a hole in one at the par-three 13th.

Iwata, who made light of strong winds with an unblemished card featuring

birdies at the seventh, 11th, 13th and 15th, said: "It was such a great round of golf today. Everything worked to my advantage and I'm proud to be able to lead in such windy conditions.''

If Iwata were to qualify, it would be his first Open appearance since 2008 at Royal Birkdale.

"It's every professional's dream to play at The Open and I'm no different,''

he said.

"I missed the cut when I played in The Open Championship in 2008. Hopefully I can make my return again this year and do better.''