Chan Kim of the United States, Michael Hendry of New Zealand, Adam Bland of Australia and KT Kim of South Korea have earned places in The 146th Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open in Japan.
Chan Kim led the way to Royal Birkdale after capturing a five-shot victory at JFE Setonakai Golf Club in Okayama. The 27-year-old sealed his win with a birdie on the 72nd hole to deliver a final-round 68 (-4) and finish on 15-under-par.
The victory capped a dream week for the Korean-American, who secured a place in the US Open at the Sectional Qualifying event in Japan before lifting his first trophy on the Japan Golf Tour and earning a place alongside the world’s best players at The Open.
“I’ve never played in a major championship before and to play in The Open has been one of my biggest dreams, just to see all the history there. I’m extremely excited and honoured,” said Kim.
“From what I’ve seen on TV, I can expect a lot of wind, a lot of rain and really difficult conditions. It will be tough but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hendry finished runner-up after carding a 68 to close out the tournament on 10-under-par and earn his first trip to The Open. The 37-year-old from Auckland, who in March became the first Kiwi in 14 years to win the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open, was thrilled to finally earn a place after several near misses at the Mizuno Open including last year when he lost out by a single shot.
“It’s great to be through to The Open. This is the fifth time I’ve played in the Mizuno Open and I’ve never finished outside the top 11, so I’ve come close on a number of occasions. I’ve missed by one shot here at least twice so it’s nice to finally get over the hurdle and get the chance to go and play,” Hendry said.
“I’m just going to really enjoy myself and hopefully have a good week. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I think once I start booking flights to the UK and looking at accommodation it will start to become real. I’m going to start having a look at videos of The Open when it was played at Royal Birkdale in the past and prepare as best I can for it.”
Bland will make a third start in The Open after finishing in third place on seven-under-par. The 34-year-old captured the Japan PGA Championship Nissin Cup Noodles Cup in 2015, earning him second position on the Japan Golf Tour money list and a place in The Open at St Andrews after he made his debut at Royal Liverpool in 2006.
“I’m just really excited. This will be my third Open, I haven’t been to Royal Birkdale so I’m hoping I can perform better than I have the last few times,” noted Bland.
“This is what you play for all year, the chance to be in The Open. If you can qualify to play in all four majors, that’s the goal, to be that good in the world.”
KT Kim is set to return to golf’s most international major championship for the sixth time after a final round 69 (-3) boosted him into a tie for fourth place alongside Australia’s Won-Joon Lee, with Kim earning the place by virtue of his higher position in the Official World Golf Ranking. The 13-time Japan Golf Tour winner, who was the defending Mizuno Open champion this week, earned his best finish in The Open in 2010 when he tied 48th at St Andrews.
“The Open is obviously the most loved major for me. It’s always a new course and a new challenge. I am hoping that I can have a great score and a great chance at Royal Birkdale,” Kim said.
“There are many things that make The Open special, one factor that always comes into play is the weather. At one moment it could feel like summer, and then at the next you have the wind and rain. It’s part of the beauty of The Open Championship.”
The 146th Open will be played at Royal Birkdale from 16-23 July 2017.