Ichihara, Imahira, Lee and Tanihara qualify for The 145th Open in Japan
Kodai Ichihara, Shugo Imahira, Sang-hee Lee and Hideto Tanihara have qualified for The Open at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open at JFE Setonaikai Golf Club in Okayama, Japan.
The four will now take their place among the world’s best players as they take on the challenge of The 145th Open at Royal Troon from 14-17 July, 2016. The Mizuno Open was the fourth stop in The Open Qualifying Series, which gives players the opportunity to qualify for golf’s most international major championship at leading Tour events around the world.
Ichihara, Imahira and Lee finished tied for second place on 10-under-par, one shot behind winner KT Kim of Korea, who had already earned his place in The Open for a fifth time after leading the Japan Golf Tour money list in 2015.
Despite a final round 73, one-over-par for the day, Kim, a former Japanese Amateur Champion, and 11-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, sealed his victory with a 12-foot par putt on the 18th hole to claim his first Mizuno Open title by a single shot. The 29-year-old carded the lowest round of the tournament, delivering an eight-under-par 64 in Friday’s second round.
“I am very happy to be able to play in The Open again”, said Kim. “This year at Royal Troon will be my fifth time playing in the Championship, although the last four times I didn’t play as well as I could. This year at Royal Troon I want to be well prepared and to be able to challenge for the Claret Jug.”
Japan’s Ichihara posted an excellent final round 68, including three birdies on the front nine and two more on the 12th and 17th holes. A bogey at the par-4 13th was the only blemish on his scorecard.
The 34-year-old celebrated his birthday by earning his second start at The Open, his debut coming in 2012, where he missed the cut at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
“It’s very exciting to play in The Open again this year”, said Ichihara. “My first time was four years ago, it was my first major and I didn’t know what to expect. I found it hard to play my best as I was very intimidated."
"This time I will know what the experience is like and I hope to be able to focus on playing my own game. This year my goal is to play my best and enjoy the experience of playing at such a prestigious Championship.”
Imahira, who was also competing on home soil this week, will make his major championship debut in The Open at Royal Troon after a final round of 72 secured his place in the field.
“This will be my first major championship ever. I am really excited to be going to Scotland to play in such a special event, said Imahira.
“In my mind I think of the links courses as being very hard and fast, so I will need to prepare to be able to chip and roll the ball to the greens."
“Since it will be my first real links course and first major, it’s going to be a very tough challenge but I am very much looking forward to it."
The 23-year-old made his way around the course in steady fashion, recording two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, followed by a series of pars down the stretch.
Korea’s Lee, who missed a birdie putt on the final hole that had the potential to force a play-off with Kim, turned in a final-round 72. The 24-year-old, who won the 2016 SK Telecom Open last week, continued his strong play to book his debut appearance in golf’s first championship.
After finishing in a four-way tie for fifth place on nine-under-par with New Zealand’s Michael Hendry and Japanese compatriots Satoshi Kodaira, who had already earned a place in The Open, and Naoto Takayanagi, Tanihara qualified for The Open by virtue of his higher position in the Official World Golf Ranking (114).
The 37-year-old has played in The Open four times with his best finish coming in 2006 when he tied for fifth place with Sergio Garcia. Despite three bogeys on the back nine, the runner-up in the 2016 BMW ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open salvaged his round with a birdie on the final hole to clinch his place at Royal Troon.
“It is wonderful to have earned a place in The Open again here in Japan at the Mizuno Open”, said Tanihara. “I have very good memories of playing in 2006, the year that Tiger Woods won at Royal Liverpool, when I finished tied for fifth."
“My game has improved dramatically since the last time that I played in the Championship in 2008. Since it has been a long time since I’ve played at one of The Open venues it will be very challenging but I am looking forward to preparing for Royal Troon and I hope to do my best.”
Round 3 Recap
New Zealand’s Michael Hendry is in pole position to qualify for The 145TH Open at Royal Troon after carding a magnificent 65 in the penultimate round of the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open in Okayama, Japan.
Hendry, who is bidding to secure his debut appearance in The Open, began his round with three consecutive birdies, before dropping a shot at the par-5 6th hole.
However, the 2015 Token Homemate Cup champion recovered to pick up two further shots on the next two holes.
Further birdies at the 10th, 11th and 16th propelled the 36 year-old into a share of the lead with Korea’s KT Kim, who delivered a more reserved 71 after yesterday’s 12-under-par 64.
Kim has already qualified The Open by virtue of his current position (42nd) in the Top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking.
The three remaining qualifying positions for The Open are held by Korea's Sang-Hee Lee and Sang-Hyun Park and Japan's Shugo Imahira.
The trio finished the third round in joint third place with a score of 10-under-par.
Imahira posted a round of 69, including three birdies, at the 6th, 10th and 16th, with no bogeys, to continue his good form.
Despite dropped shots at the 3rd and 13th holes, Lee’s six birdies in a round of 68 ensured he moved up one place on the leaderboard following the completion of today’s round.
Park, who completed the front nine in level par, produced two birdies at the 15th and 18th to score his second 70 of the tournament and remain firmly in contention for a coveted place among the starting field at Royal Troon in July.
Round 2 Recap
Park’s scorecard included six birdies, three on both the front and back nine, to record the second best round of the day and move into the first qualifying position for The Open.
The 33 year-old currently sits in second place on eight-under-par, three shots behind leader and fellow countryman KT Kim, who delivered a magnificent 64 to top the leaderboard at 11-under-par.
The Crowns Champion registered a total of nine birdies during his round, with a dropped shot at the par-4 9th hole the only flaw in what was an excellent display.
Kim, who played in The Open four years in succession from 2010, has already secured a place in the starting field at Royal Troon by virtue of his current position (42nd) in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Japan’s Shugo Imahara now holds the second place in The Open after round of 68 resulted in the 2015 Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA Sammy Cup runner-up moving up the leaderboard into third place, one shot behind Park on seven-under-par.
The 23-year-old was prolific on the back nine, with birdies on the 10th, 11th, 13th and 18th holes, adding to a birdie on the first. A bogey at the par-3 14th was his only disappointment.
The two remaining qualifying places are held by Sanghee Lee and Hideto Tanihara, who finished day two in joint fourth place on six-under-par.
Lee, the SK Telecom Open Champion, posted a round of 68, including six birdies and two dropped shots, while Tanihara remains in contention to qualify for The Open, following up yesterday’s round of 68 with a two-under-par score of 70.
Round 1 Recap
Han, Jang, Hendry and Tanihara hold qualifying places for The Open in Japan
Seungshu Han, Ikjae Jang, Michael Hendry and Hideto Tanihara hold the qualifying places for Royal Troon after the first round of the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open in Okayama, Japan.
Han holds the joint lead on five-under-par with compatriot Satoshi Kodaira of Japan, who has already qualified for The Open following his win at the Japan Open Golf Championship last year.
Both players posted rounds of 67.
Han’s scorecard included four birdies at the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th holes, before picking up an eagle at the par-5 6th hole to go out in 30.
The remaining nine holes featured eight pars and a bogey at the par-4 14th, the only blemish on his scorecard.
Jang, Hendry and Tanihara all recorded a four-under-par score of 68 to trail the leaders by one shot and occupy the remaining qualifying places for The Open.
They currently sit in joint third place with Japan’s Yui Ueda, whose lower Official World Golf Ranking results in the former Token Homemate Cup champion falling just short of the qualifying positions after day one.
Korean Jang, bidding to make his debut in The Open, recorded a bogey-free round, birdying the 6th, 8th, 15th, and 18th holes.
Despite a bogey at the first hole, New Zealander Hendry recovered his composure for the remainder of the round, delivering three birdies in the next five holes to complete the front nine two-under-par. The 2013 New Zealand PGA Champion collected further birdies at the 10th and 18th holes to put himself in a good position at four-under-par.
Tanihara, who finished tied for fifth place with Spain’s Sergio Garcia at The 135TH Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006, also shot a round of 68 with no dropped shots. The 37 year-old, with 11 Japan Golf Tour wins to his name, picked up shots at the 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 16th holes.