The race to Royal Portrush is ready to hot up once again as The Open Qualifying Series roars back to the top of the agenda in the Land of the Rising Sun.
At the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan – around 90 minutes away from the heart of Tokyo – the latest batch of hopefuls will bid to secure their places at The 148th Open, which returns to the Northern Ireland venue in July after a 68-year hiatus.
With a field boasting a hearty blend of youth and experience, competition will be as fierce as ever as the countdown to golf’s oldest championship continues.Jazz whistling a happy tune
A glut of players that have already earned exemptions for Royal Portrush will also be in amongst it in Japan – and if they perform, that could open the door for others to seal a route to Royal Portrush.
Chief among them will be Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, who made the cut at his first title at The Open in Carnoustie in 2018.
Already a man for the big occasion, the 23-year-old won the Singapore Open in January to earn himself a spot at Royal Portrush, while he also made a splash as the PGA Championship – he sat second midway through the tournament before eventually finishing tied 14th.A Tiger feat
Elsewhere, Shaun Norris, another who has also already gained an exemption for The 148th Open, will also be in action in Japan.
The eyes of the world were trained on the 37-year-old South African when he was partnered with the great Tiger Woods in the third round of last year’s Open at Carnoustie.
He was also in action as this year’s PGA Championship and could make waves towards the top of the leaderboard given his impressive form on the Japan Golf Tour – last year, he was second in the overall money list behind Shugo Imahira.Can Hendry do it again?
One man that could also be well in the mix towards the top of the leaderboard is Michael Hendry, a regular on the Japan Golf Tour chasing his third crack at The Open.
The 39-year-old New Zealander played in his maiden major at Royal Birkdale in 2017 and followed that up by finishing in a three-way tie for second at the 2018 Mizuno Open.
That sent him to Carnoustie last year, where he shot nine over par.