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History of The Open
Japan's best Open finishes
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Matsuyama among several strong performers
Hideki Matsuyama in The 142nd Open at Muirfield

Hideki Matsuyama made golfing history on Sunday, becoming the first Japanese player to win a men’s major championship as he secured victory in the Masters.

Many Japanese players have contended strongly at The Open over the years. To celebrate Matsuyama’s groundbreaking triumph at Augusta, we take a look at the best performances from Japanese players in golf’s original Championship.

 

Masahiro ‘Massy’ Kuramoto – T4 at Royal Troon in 1982

Massy Kuramoto on his way to a tie for fourth at Royal Troon in 1982

To date, the highest finish from a Japanese player at The Open was recorded in 1982.

A prolific winner on the Japan Golf Tour, Kuramoto had only made one previous appearance at a major – in The 1978 Open Championship – when he arrived at Royal Troon for The 111th Open.

However, he defied his lack of major experience superbly by contending throughout the week – posting three scores of 71 either side of a 73 in round two.

With an aggregate of 286, Kuramoto finished just two shots behind the Champion Golfer of the Year, Tom Watson, sharing fourth with Nick Faldo, Des Smyth and Tom Purtzer.

Kuramoto went on to play in The Open on five further occasions, his best finish in those outings a tie for 30th at Turnberry in 1986.

 

Shigeki Maruyama – T5 at Muirfield in 2002

Shigeki Maruyama at The 131st Open in 2002

Kuramoto may have recorded the highest placing at The Open by a Japanese player, but Maruyama came even closer to victory in terms of scoring.

In 2002 at Muirfield, Maruyama was one of three players to finish one shot outside a four-man play-off that was ultimately won by Ernie Els.

Two rounds of 68 had given Maruyama a share of the lead through 36 holes, but he lost ground on Saturday when shooting 75 amid horrendous weather conditions.

A third 68 of the week lifted Maruyama back into contention on the final day, yet he came up just short at five under despite birdieing the 16th and 17th in a fine finish.

Maruyama also managed a top-10 finish at Royal Troon in 1997, while he placed inside the top 30 in half of his 10 appearances at The Open.

 

Hideto Tanihara – T5 at Royal Liverpool in 2006

Hideto Tanihara at The Open in 2006

Maruyama’s fifth-place finish at Muirfield was matched by compatriot Tanihara four years later.

Keiichiro Fukabori was Japan’s star performer on the opening day of The 135th Open at Royal Liverpool, shooting 67 to sit joint second after the first round.

However, while Fukabori faded thereafter, Tanihara followed a steady 72 with impressive scores of 68 and 66, leaving him just three behind leader Tiger Woods with a round to play.

Woods remained at the head of the field on Sunday to secure the Claret Jug for the third time, but Tanihara further improved his position with a closing 71 that saw him share fifth with Sergio Garcia.

Surprisingly, given his admirable showing at Hoylake, Tanihara’s other six appearances at The Open all yielded missed cuts.

 

Hideki Matsuyama – T6 at Muirfield in 2013

Hideki Matsuyama lines up a putt at Muirfield in 2013

Japan’s first male major winner had been tipped for high honours long before his victory at Augusta.

Back in 2013, an outstanding Open debut showed what Matsuyama was capable of, as he finished tied sixth at Muirfield aged 21.

After coming through International Final Qualifying to book his place at The 142nd Open, Matsuyama looked very much at home among golf’s elite as he matched the four-round totals of Woods and Zach Johnson.

His 2013 placing remains his best in The Open so far, but it would be no surprise if Matsuyama puts together even stronger challenges in future having broken his major duck.

 

Isao Aoki – T7 on three occasions (St Andrews in 1978, Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1979 and 1988)

Isao Aoki, a regular challenger at The Open

No Japanese player has recorded more top-10s at The Open than Isao Aoki, a regular figure on leaderboards at the Championship in the 1970s and 80s.

A major runner-up to Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 U.S. Open, Aoki first challenged at The Open two years earlier, sharing seventh at St Andrews after claiming the first-round lead with a 68.

Aoki was also seventh at Royal Lytham & St Annes the following year and, although he finished one shot outside the top 10 at Muirfield in 1980, he lit up that Championship with a third-round 63.

Another seventh-place finish followed in 1988, again at Lytham. While Aoki was not the player to record Japan’s first male major win, he ended his Open career having recorded six top-25s in nine appearances.

 

Tsuneyuki ‘Tommy’ Nakajima – T8 at Turnberry in 1986

Tommy Nakajima shakes hands with Greg Norman at Turnberry

Nakajima boasts top-10 finishes in all four majors, his best finish at The Open having come in 1986 when he shared eighth at Turnberry.

However, his most notable showing in the Championship came on his debut at St Andrews in 1978, where he was very much in contention until suffering a painful setback at the Road Hole in round three.

Nakajima hit the green in two at the par-4, but then putted into the fiendish Road bunker and required four attempts to escape. A quintuple-bogey nine was the result and Nakajima ended the week in a tie for 17th, having been just one off the lead before his costly bunker troubles.

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