For The Players By The Players 2024

Another week, another solid start for Hendry

Another week, another solid start for Hendry

New Zealand’s Michael Hendry is steadily regaining his top form since returning from a battle with cancer, as evidenced by his fine start at For The Players by The Players in Gunma on Thursday.

Hendry, 44, amassed 14 points to conclude the opening day of the tournament, which utilises the modified Stableford scoring format, tied for third place, just one point adrift of leaders Naoyuki Kataoka and Yusaku Hosono.

To contextualise in conventional stroke play terms, Hendry carded a six-under-par 66 featuring an eagle, five birdies, and a lone bogey at The Club Golf Village.

Under this format, players earn eight points for an albatross, five for an eagle, and two for a birdie, with a point deducted for a bogey and three for a double bogey or worse.

This marks Hendry's second encouraging start in as many weeks, following his tie for second place at the halfway stage of The Crowns last week. He ultimately secured a commendable tied 16th place finish in that tournament.

South Korea's Song Young-han also amassed 14 points, trading eight birdies against two bogeys, while compatriot Ryu Hyun-woo secured 13 points to tie for seventh place.

South Africa's Shaun Norris and American Shintaro Ban added to the strong international presence atop the leaderboard, each posting 12 points to secure tied ninth place.

Kataoka, who began his round from the 10th hole, bounced back from an early bogey by carding eight birdies, with six of them coming in the back nine, positioning himself as a strong contender once again.

Just last week, Kataoka came agonizingly close to ending his three-year title drought, narrowly missing out on the victory to Ren Yonezawa by just one shot at The Crowns.

Expressing his burning desire to reclaim the winner's circle, Kataoka is determined to shake off the bridesmaid label once and for all.

Since his breakthrough victory at the 2021 Japan Players Championship, he has finished as the runner-up six times, including last week's close call.

"I'd say my overall form isn't too shabby," said Kataoka.

"Often, despite being in contention for the win, I end up settling for second place. And after last week's near-miss, I'mdetermined to keep my focus on the present without getting ahead of myself.

"But if I find myself in the top spots towards the end of the tournament, I'll definitely be gunning for that victory."

Fellow frontrunner Hosono expressed his delight at finally hitting his stride after a string of missed cuts in recent weeks. He's eager to capitalise on this promising start.

"Despite recent struggles with form, today's consistent and strong play instils confidence. I hope to maintain this momentum going into tomorrow," remarked the 21-year-old.

Hosono also noted his comfort with the Stableford format, stating: "If the score is good, I think I will generally be in the top ranks, so it's not like I'm aiming for eagles or anything. 


"So, continuing to make good shots, and if that results in birdies or eagles, it's like a reward, I think."

"As I'm unaware of my current point tally, I occasionally glance at the leaderboard to gauge my performance," he added.

Leading first round scores:

+15: Naoyuki Kataoka, Yusaku Hosono;

+14: Hiroya Kubota, Kunihiro Kamii, Michael Hendry (Nzl), Song Young-han (Kor);

+13: Kensei Hirata, Ryu Hyun-woo (Kor);

+12: Shintaro Ban (US), Taisei Shimizu, Shaun Norris (Rsa).