Brendan Steele the first-round leader at PGA Tour's Zozo Championship in Japan

The PGA Tour's annual stop in Japan got under way at the Narashino Country Club in Chiba on Thursday, with Brendan Steele grabbing a one-shot lead.

Steele, who secured the last of his three PGA Tour titles to date almost exactly five years ago, finished with four straight birdies to rocket up the leaderboard and into first place.

"Everybody says if you birdie 18, dinner tastes better," Steele told AP. "But four in a row is definitely, really nice and feels good."

Steele seems to enjoy himself at this venue, as he also finished runner-up a year ago in the same tournament behind winner Hideki Matsuyama.

"I love it here," said the 39-year-old. "Loved the course last year - really happy be back."

The tournament was held in California in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic and returned to Japan last year in front of limited spectators, so this is the first time in a while the players have been able to really enjoy Japan during their time here.

"Nice for us to be able to get out the hotel a little bit this year and enjoy the culture a little bit," Steele added. "So I've enjoyed it a ton."

The first-round leaderboard is dominated by Americans, with Adam Schenk lying a shot behind in second place, followed by Sam Ryder, Matthew NeSmith and Keegan Bradley in a tie for third on four under.

Among those on three under, just three back, are Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Mito Pereira and home favourite Kazuki Higa, the highest-placed among the Japanese contingent.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, who was accompanied by a throng of spectators throughout his round, had to settle for a one-over-par 71.

Last week's 20-year-old PGA Tour winner Tom Kim opened with a level-par 70.

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