Ikeda Leads Four Qualifiers from Japan Sectional
By David Shefter, USGA
Four golfers earned their place in the 116th U.S. Open Championship at a sectional qualifier conducted on May 23 at Higashi-Hirono Golf Club in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Yuta Ikeda, of Japan, earned medalist honors with a 10-under total of 132.
Ikeda, 30, a 14-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour (JGT), posted rounds of 64-68 on the par-71 layout to qualify for his second U.S. Open. He tied for 58th in 2010 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.
“I really wanted to play again in the U.S. Open, so I am relieved now,” Ikeda said with smile. He made 13 birdies over the 36 holes, and his only mistakes were a bogey on the par-4 fifth hole in his first round and a double-bogey 7 on the ninth hole in his second round.
There were 40 competitors in the 36-hole sectional, the first of 12 being conducted over the next two weeks to determine the final 156-player field for the U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club June 16-19. A qualifier will be held on May 30 in England, followed by 10 U.S. sectionals taking place in 9 different states on June 6.
Japan Golf Tour veteran Toru Taniguchi, 48, finished three strokes behind Ikeda after rounds of 66-69. The 19-time winner on the JGT will be making his 10th U.S. Open start and first since finishing 67th in 2014 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.
Two other Japanese players, Yusaku Miyazato and Hideto Tanihara, garnered the final two spots by shooting 136.
Miyazato, the 35-year-old brother of LPGA Tour star Ai Miyazato, opened with a 71, but came back with a 6-under 65 in the afternoon to earn his first U.S. Open start. Three of his four professional victories have come on the Japan Golf Tour.
Tanihara, 37, also will be making his first U.S. Open appearance after posting rounds of 69-67. The 11-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour does have seven other major-championship appearances, with his best finish a tie for fifth in The Open Championship conducted by The R&A in 2006 at Royal Liverpool (Hoylake).
The two alternate positions, in order, went to Thitiphun Chuayprakong, of Thailand, and Yoshinori Fujimoto, of Japan.
One notable who failed to qualify was 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Richard Lee, of Canada, who withdrew after his opening round of 75.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.