Tournament article

Home of Golf beckons for Mizuno Open hopefuls

Home of Golf beckons for Mizuno Open hopefuls

A total of six JGTO members have already secured their places in the 150th Open championship, which will be contested at the Old Course at St. Andrews from July 14-21.


To date, those who have punched their tickets are Takumi Kanaya and Chan Kim by virtue of being the top two money leaders of the 2020/21 season; Shaun Norris (2021 Japan Open Golf Championship winner), Keita Nakajima (2021 Mark H. McCormack Medal winner), Yuto Katsuragawa (tied-second at 2022 SMBC Singapore Open) and most recently Shugo Imahira (2022 Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup winner).


So, who is next to be heading the "Home of Golf"?


The Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open returns this week at the JFE Setonaikai Golf Club in Okayama Prefecture, offering four coveted spots to the leading finishers who have not qualified yet for the fourth and final major championship of the year.


JGTO members can certainly count their blessings as the Mizuno Open has been part of the Open Qualifying Series since 1998, on top of the other existing qualifying avenues through JGTO Money List, Japan Open and Diamond Cup.


This year, the tournament forms one of the three exclusive qualifying sites in Asia, with the SMBC Singapore Open in January and next month's Kolon Korea Open being the other two.


The spotlight will surely be on Philippines veteran Juvic Pagunsan as he returns to defend his title for the first time in his JGTO career.


Last year, the 44-year-old Pagunsan made headlines worldwide for his impressive feat of claiming his maiden JGTO breakthrough without a caddie and playing with just 11 clubs at his disposal.


Pagunsan carded a 17-under total to win by three strokes from Ryutaro Nagano. 


Only two of them earned the nod to The Open at Royal St George's (due to some adjustments to qualifying criteria as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic), but Pagunsan eventually opted not to make his third Open appearance to focus on the Tokyo Olympics instead.


Nagano made his first major bow with a solid pair of 70 and 72 to agonisingly miss the cut by one shot.


Pagunsan will be hoping to rediscover his loss form this week, having not made a single cut yet this year. Last month, he last featured in The Crowns but threw in the towel after opening with a 77.


Brad Kennedy will be the other international player seeking to make amends after finishing tied-fourth at last week's Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament, which he led by two shots after the third round.

Kennedy had fond memories of the JFE Setonaikai Golf Club, where he won his first JGTO title in 2012.


Fellow Australians, including two-time winners Brendan Jones, Anthony Quayle, Andrew Evans and Matthew Griffin, will all be looking to contend, too, whilst vying for a start at The Open.


Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe and Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand are the other two players to look out for as they intended to build on their top-10 finish last week.


As for the man of the moment, Imahira, don't expect him to hold anything back, although he has confirmed a trip to St. Andrews.


Buoyed by his back-to-back Diamond Cup and Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament victories, he will be fired up to make it three on the trot.