Kurt Kitayama, Harris English and Davis Riley booked their places in The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool through their performances at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, part of The Open Qualifying Series.
Kitayama held his nerve superbly down the stretch to claim his maiden PGA Tour victory with a nine-under total at Bay Hill, where a trio of spots in The Open were available to the leading finishers not already exempt for the Championship.
The leader through 54 holes, Kitayama suffered a major setback when he drove out of bounds at the ninth and stumbled to a triple-bogey.
That left the tournament wide open and the lead changed hands on multiple occasions thereafter as the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Scottie Scheffler all threatened to prevail.
Yet it was Kitayama who ultimately won out, as he birdied the par-3 17th and then produced a superb putt from long range on 18 to leave the simplest of tap-ins for victory.
“It’s going to be amazing to play in The Open,” said Kitayama, who made it into last year’s Championship at St Andrews with a second-place finish at the previous week’s Genesis Scottish Open.
“Whenever you’re playing in a major, it’s always a good feeling.”
English is set to make his eighth appearance in The Open after he tied for second place with the already-exempt McIlroy at Bay Hill, finishing one shot behind Kitayama on eight-under.
“It’s one of my favourite tournaments of the year, nothing beats an Open Championship,” said English.
“I’ve played Royal Liverpool before (in 2014). I missed the cut there – it was a tough course and it got windy. I love the town there and I’m looking forward to getting back.”
Riley, meanwhile, can look forward to an Open debut after rocketing up the leaderboard with a six-under 66 on Sunday.
He ended the tournament in a tie for eighth place with Trey Mullinax, with Riley’s higher position in the Official World Golf Ranking ensuring he claimed the third and final qualifying place.
“The Open is one of those championships you dream of playing as a kid,” said Riley. “You watch the greats, like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, the names are endless, so it’s great to finally have this come to fruition. The opportunity will be incredible.
“I’ve played a bit in the UK – the Junior Ryder Cup at Blairgowrie – although the course was parkland so it wasn’t true links. I can’t wait to get my first taste of it at Royal Liverpool. It will be special to play there.”
Any golfer who has earned a qualifying place who then becomes exempt under one or more categories before the closing date of entries for The Open on 1 June will result in that place being awarded to the next non-exempt golfer, which will determined by a reserve list for each event played before this date.