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Hiroshi Iwata and Yoshinobu Tsukada of Japan, Ashun Wu of China and leading amateur player Cheng-Tsung Pan of Chinese Taipei have earned places at The Open Championship after qualifying in Thailand.
The two day, 36-hole Open Qualifying Series — Thailand event at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi brought together an international field of 75 players from 17 countries bidding to secure four places at The Open which will be held at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake from 17-20 July 2014.
Iwata finished at the top of the leaderboard after holding the overnight lead and will return to The Open for the first time since 2008 when he made his Major Championship debut at Royal Birkdale. The 33-year-old signed off with a one-under-par 71 to finish at five-under-par overall.
Iwata cemented his overnight lead with two birdies in his opening four holes. His charge was halted when he bogeyed the 7th and 8th holes but a birdie on the 11th brought him back to five-under-par. A string of pars back into the clubhouse kept him one shot ahead of the field and secured his place in the 143rd Open Championship.
“It’s great to return to The Open Championship. It has been a long time, and I’m happy to be back,” said Iwata (Pictured below). “I trained hard for this week and I’m glad the efforts finally paid off. I have been striking the ball well and I was confident of my chances. I hope to carry this form on to The Open.”
Pan used his competitive experience at Amata Spring to his advantage, finishing tied for second alongside Wu. He finished runner-up at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the same venue in 2012, narrowly missing out on an invitation to The Masters Tournament. The 22-year-old is thrilled to be playing in his third Major Championship, after competing in the 2011 and 2013 US Opens.
“I’m still in a state of shock but at the same time I’m really happy with how I have played considering how tough this qualifier has been,” said Pan.
“Playing in The Open Championship has always been a dream of mine. The conditions are going to be very different from the US at Royal Liverpool but I guess that’s what golf is all about. You have got to learn to play and compete under different conditions and hopefully I can do well again in July,” he said.
Wu will make his return to The Open after finishing at four-under-par alongside Pan. The 28-year-old will take the same path to golf’s oldest Major Championship after qualifying at Amata Spring in 2013 and playing in The Open at Muirfield.
“Making my debut at The Open Championship was an eye opener for me last year. Now that I have qualified again I will make the best of my opportunity and try to put up a better performance,” said Wu, who missed the cut in 2013.
Tsukada survived a thrilling four-way play-off with Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and American David Lipsky. A par on the fourth extra play-off hole was just enough for him to earn his hard-fought ticket to Royal Liverpool after Kawamura and Lipsky fell out of contention and home hope Janewattananond left his par putt on the edge of the hole.
“It was tough to make birdies during the play-off and I just said to myself that as long as I can hit the ball onto the fairway, I should be safe,” said Tsukada.
“I have played in The Open in 2004 and 2008. I missed the cuts on those two occasions but hopefully I get to play all four rounds this time. It will be an honour to represent Japan at The Open,” he added.
Ten players from throughout the world have now qualified for The Open through the Open Qualifying Series. Joining Iwata, Wu, Pan and Tsukada at Royal Liverpool are Australians John Senden, Rhein Gibson and Bryden Macpherson, who qualified at the Emirates Australian Open, along with George Coetzee and Justin Walters of South Africa and Jin Jeong of South Korea who qualified at The Joburg Open in South Africa.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series is The Mizuno Open, which will take place at JFE Setonaikai Golf Club in Japan from 29 May to 1 June. The leading four players who are not otherwise exempt will qualify for The Open.
For more information visit TheOpen.com.