Ono Golf Club
Ono City, Japan • qualifying: May 22, 2017
The Japan sectional qualifier returns to the location of the inaugural event in 2005. The USGA began overseas sectional qualifying in 2005 in Japan and England. Designed by Osamu Ueda, the facility opened in 1961. It can be stretched to 6,935 yards (par 72) and it has previously hosted the 1969 Japan Open and 2011 Kansai Open on the Japan Golf Tour. The sectional is conducted in association with the Japan Golf Association, and often attracts top professionals and elite amateurs from the Pacific Rim, which includes Australia, the People's Republic of China, Chinese Taipei, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
A total of 36 competitors -- all professionals -- are scheduled to compete. Yuta Ikeda and Hideto Tanihara, both of Japan, withdrew as they are likely to become exempt on May 22 by being among the top 60 points leaders in the Official World Golf Ranking. Ikeda started the week at No. 50 and Tanihara was No. 56.
Trevor Sluman, the nephew of 1992 U.S. Open runner-up and winner of the 1988 PGA Championship, and 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Anthony Paolucci are both in the field. Past U.S. Open competitors David Oh, a University of Southern California alum, Hiroyuki Fujita, Hiroshi Iwata, Angelo Que and Toru Taniguchi.
The field includes players from Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States of America. All but four golfers were exempt from local qualifying.
Eight apparently was enough.
Yusaku Miyazato, of Japan, rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on the eighth playoff hole in Monday’s 36-hole sectional qualifier at Ono Golf Club in Ono City, Japan, to garner the fourth and final available spot in next month’s U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills.
The putt ended one of the longer playoffs in U.S. Open sectional qualifying history. Four years ago in Dallas, Zack Fischer bested Ryan Palmer in a 12-hole playoff.
Miyazato, the older brother of nine-time LPGA Tour champion Ai Miyazato, was one of six golfers competing in the playoff for the last three spots.
Satoshi Kodaira, of Japan, was the medalist in the 36-player field, shooting 64-69 for an 11-under total of 133.
"[The] U.S. Open has been the championship to watch on TV since my boyhood and thus it is my dream stage," said Kodaira. "My practice partner, Toru Taniguchi [who has competed in the U.S. Open] refers to its tough course setting and I really wanted to play in it."
Miyazato, Shugo Imahira, Chan Kim, Sungjae Im, Shintaro Kobayashi and Adam Bland all posted 7-under 137 to get into the playoff.
Imahira, of Japan, and Kim, of Gilbert, Ariz., earned the first two spots in the playoff, while Bland was eliminated early. Kobayashi settled for second-alternate status, leaving just Im and Miyazato to decide the final spot.
Miyazato, in fact, thought his chances were finished when he bogeyed the first playoff hole by hitting his tee shot into the water. He walked back to the clubhouse rather than waiting for the second group to finish. But the 36-year-old managed to survive and kept playing the 18th hole again and again before finally prevailing in near darkness.
“I am relieved to finish the playoff today," said Miyazato, who will be making his second consecutive U.S. Open start after finishing tied for 23rd last year at Oakmont Country Club. "I did not want to come back tomorrow morning. Last year, I played the U.S. Open, but not good enough. I want to play better because I feel great to play major tournament. This year, I am playing well and I hope to keep good physical condition for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.”
This was the first of two international sectional qualifiers. A second will take place on May 29 at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England. The 10 sectional qualifiers in the United States are scheduled for June 5.
Kodaira, 27, has enjoyed plenty of success in his home country, winning four times on the Japan Golf Tour, including the 2015 Japan Open. This will be his first U.S. Open appearance after missing the cut in two Open Championship – conducted by The R&A – starts in 2013 and 2016.
Kim, 27, has played primarily in Europe and Asia since turning professional in 2011. Although born in the Republic of Korea, he spent most of his childhood in Honolulu, Hawaii. He also won the 2009 Pacific Coast Amateur.
"I have never played any major tournament, so very happy and so excited," said Kim. "I want to play all four days. It [has to] be my milestone as a professional golfer."
Two other notable Americans failed to qualify. Trevor Sluman, the nephew of 1992 U.S. Open runner-up Jeff Sluman, shot 3-over 147 (71-76), while 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Anthony Paolucci posted 152 (74-78).