Four veteran Japanese players booked their tickets to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the US Open. Yuta Ikeda, who was the medalist at the sectional qualifier at Higashi Hirono Golf Club, will be joined by Toru Taniguchi, Yuzaku Miyazato, and Hideto Tanihara. The four will join the rest of the field when the US Open tees off on June 16th.
Ikeda Coming In Hot
Yuta Ikeda, who won the sectional qualifier by three strokes at ten under par, will be entering the US Open with a ton of confidence and a hot game. Ikeda picked up his 15th Japan Tour victory at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship last month. In the six tournaments he has competed in this year, he has finished outside the top 10 only once. The hot play is an extension of last season, where he finished inside the top 10 nine times, including a victory. Ikeda finished third on the Japan Tour money list last season.
Ikeda previously played in the US Open once - a T58 finish at Pebble Beach in 2010. He played in the Open Championship last year, where he missed the cut.
New Experience For Tanihara
Hideto Tanihara fired a second round 67 to qualify for the US Open by two strokes. Despite his many years of experience on the Japan Tour, as well as his previous experiences in the majors (including a T5 finish at the 2006 Open Championship), Tanihara has never competed in a US Open. The challenges of Oakmont will be a new experience for the 11 time Japan Tour winner.
Tanihara played well last season, finishing inside the top 10 seven times, including picking up his first win in two years. This season has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the 37 year old. After making the cut at the PGA Tour's Sony Open, Tanihara finished T6 and solo second in his next two starts. He would then miss the cut in his next two starts, before finishing solo third at The Crowns, one of the Japan Tour's premier tournaments. Tanihara has plenty of game, but inconsistencies have plagued him throughout his career. Hopefully he will arrive at Oakmont with the arrow pointing up.
Taniguchi Brings Experience
Perhaps the most surprising name to come out of the qualifier was Toru Taniguchi, which also happens to be the most experienced name. Taniguchi had a rough 2015, notching only 3 top tens to go along with 6 missed cuts. He hasn't won in nearly four years, and has failed to finish better than T23 in his three starts this season.
Still, the stage will not be too big for Taniguchi, who was the Japan Tour's money list winner in 2002 and 2007. He has played in 26 major championships, most recently in 2014, when he made the cut at the US Open.
The 19 time Japan Tour winner has fallen to 481 in the Official World Golf Rankings, but rankings don't matter when everyone stands on the tee box. Taniguchi will be looking to pull off some of the same magic he had during the first two round in 2014 and make the weekend once again.
Miyazato Hoping To Change Momentum
Yuzaku Miyazato shot the best second round of the qualifier - a 65 to leapfrog the field and punch his ticket into his first ever US Open. Miyazato has the least amount of major experience of any of the four who qualified - he only competed in two Open Championships, both of which were missed cuts.
Miyazato had the best season of his career last year, when he notch 10 top ten finishes with one victory. He finished second on the Japan Tour money list, and shot to 92nd in the OWGR, the highest ranking of his career.
Miyazato has taken a step back this season, however. He hasn't notched a single top 10, and has missed two cuts. Miyazato has gone through peaks and valleys in his career before, so hopefully he finds his swing and gets back to playing great golf.
Miyazato has a strange side note in the history of golf. In 2006, when he was playing on the PGA Tour, he recorded two holes-in-one in the same round during the Reno-Tahoe Open. He is only the second player in PGA Tour history to have two holes-in-one in the same round. He is also the older brother of former Rolex Number One Ai Miyazato. Yuzaku, however, is hoping to make his own name for himself at his first US Open.