Five Earn U.S. Open Spots in Japan Qualifier
By David Shefter, USGA
Wen-Chong Liang, 36, of the People’s Republic of China, carded a pair of 7-under-par 65s to lead a group of five qualifiers at a U.S. Open sectional qualifier held on Monday, May 25, at Kinojo Golf Club in Okayama Prefecture, Japan.
Masahiro Kawamura, of Japan, finished two strokes back with a 36-hole total of 132 (65-67). Seuk Hyun Baek, of Korea, Kurt Barnes, of Australia, Hiroyuki Fujita, of Japan, survived a 5-for-3 playoff for the final spots after posting 11-under 133.
Two Japanese golfers, Shunsuke Sonode and Toru Taniguchi, are the first and second alternates, respectively.
The Japan qualifier was one of two international sectional qualifiers conducted on May 25, with the other held at Walton Heath Golf Club outside of London. The 10 sectional qualifiers to be held in the U.S. are scheduled for June 8.
The U.S. Open will be played July 18-21 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.
For Liang, it will be his second consecutive U.S. Open appearance after missing the cut in 2014 at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. He is the second golfer from China to qualify for the U.S. Open, following teenager Andy Zhang in 2012.
Liang opened with a bogey-free round, shooting a 6-under 30 on his first nine holes after beginning his round on hole No. 10. In the afternoon, he posted nine birdies against just two bogeys.
Kawamura, 21, will be making his first major-championship appearance. His lone professional victory came at the 2013 Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open on the Japan Golf Tour.
Baek, 24, and Barnes, 34, also will be making their U.S. Open debuts. Barnes, who missed the cut at the British Open in 2010 and 2011, celebrated his birthday at the qualifier.. Both players shot 67-66 on Monday and birdied the second (Barnes) and third (Baek) playoff holes to earn their place in the U.S. Open field.
The first competitor to emerge from the playoff was Fujita, 45, who is no stranger to major championships. This will be his fifth U.S. Open in the last six years – he did not play in 2014 – with his best finish a tie for 51st in 2012 at The Olympic Club. The 18-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour also has played in two Masters, five British Opens and six PGA Championships. He posted rounds of 66-67, then birdied the first playoff hole to earn a spot in the field at Chambers Bay.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.