Four qualify for The 147th Open at Open Qualifying Series Japan
Shota Akiyoshi, Michael Hendry, Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi secured their places in The 147th Open after qualifying at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open at The Royal Golf Club in Japan.
The tournament is sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organisation and was the fourth event in The Open Qualifying Series, which gives players the chance to book their place at Carnoustie from 15-22 July 2018.
All four players will tee it up in The Open at the famous Scottish links after finishing as the leading four players in the top 12 and ties who were not already exempt.
Akiyoshi secured his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour to the delight of the home crowd after posting a two-under-par 70 in the final round to finish on a one-under-par total of 287.
After the victory Akiyoshi said: “I am very happy to have earned the opportunity to qualify for The Open and this will be my first time playing at Carnoustie.”
“I have never played links golf before but I consider myself a good iron player and I am very confident with my game in that regard. I scored well in windy conditions on a long course at The Royal Golf Club this week so it will give me a lot of confidence for playing Carnoustie” he added.
He will make his debut in The Open after securing the first qualifying place ahead of Hendry, Kawamura and Kobayashi who finished in a three-way tie for second place.
Hendry, who led the tournament going into the final round, came close to forcing a play-off with Akiyoshi on the final hole but a bogey on the 18th green led to the New Zealander dropping a crucial stroke and ending his chances of landing a second tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.
The 38-year-old will make his second appearance in The Open after qualifying at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open for the second year in a row. In 2017, he also finished runner-up to Chan Kim and qualified to make his first appearance in a major championship at Royal Birkdale.
“I’m really happy to be heading back to The Open and to have another crack at playing in it is fantastic” said Hendry. “I haven’t played Carnoustie before but I think I will need to have my game firing on all cylinders and prepare well. I was a little disappointed at my performance at Royal Birkdale last year so if I can get to the weekend and compete that would be great” he added.
Kawamura and Kobayashi both posted a one-under-par rounds of 71 on the final day to claim the final two qualifying spots for golf’s original championship.
Kawamura was also left to rue a missed opportunity after a bogey on the final hole meant he had to settle for a share of second place and the 24-year-old will now make his first appearance in The Open when he tees it up at Carnoustie in July.
“To have earned a place in The Open is fantastic and I am very excited to be playing in the Championship” said Masahiro Kawamura. “It will be my first visit to Scotland and I am looking forward to the challenge of playing Carnoustie” he added.
Kobayashi looked to be in contention for a fourth career win on the Japan Golf Tour after three birdies in his final round had put the 42-year-old out in front on two-under-par coming down the 18th.
However, a double bogey on the final hole saw him drop two vital strokes, ending his hopes of lifting the trophy. Kobayashi will return to The Open for the first time since 2014 when he first played in the Championship at Royal Liverpool.
He said “This is my second time playing in The Open after playing at Royal Liverpool in 2014. I have never played at Carnoustie but I have heard many stories about how tough it will be and I have always wanted to play it.”
He added: “My preparations will now be focused on The Open. From what I have seen of Carnoustie accuracy will be key and the tee shots will be extremely important.”
The next event on The Open Qualifying Series is the Kolon Korea Open in June.