U.S. Open 2019: 18 of 33 players withdraw from Japan sectional
Kodai Ichihara, Shugo Imahira and Mikumu Horikawa earned invites to the 2019 U.S. Open. And they only had to outlast 12 other players.
The Japanese U.S. Open sectional is routinely one of the smallest qualifiers into the U.S. Open, boasting a field of 30-to-40 competitors. (For context, the Columbus, Oh. sectional has 120 players). Moreover, it's common for many, believing they are out of the running, to drop out after 18 holes during the 36-hole event.
But the proceedings at Kuwana Country Club were slightly different, in that more than half of the 33-man field failed to finish the tournament.
A number of players walked off mid-way through their second 18, including Satoshi Kodaira and Yuta Ikeda. Jazz Janewattananond, one of the breakout stories of Bethpage Black during the PGA Championship, threw in the towel after an even-par 72. Hiroshi Iwata called it quits after 11 holes of one-under par golf.
Perhaps the most curious of all is Tatsunori Nukaga. His five-under 67 was tied for forth at the midway point. Nukaga was one under through nine holes in his second round when he pulled out. He would have needed to play his final nine in five-under 31, which sounds like a tall task...until realizing he shot a 32 in his first go-around on that side of the course.
This WD ratio dramatically outweighs the only other sectional to be completed thus far in Dallas, where 10 of the 102 players did not turn in a 36-hole score. A Golf Digest request for comment on the situation has not been returned as of writing.
Ichihara was medalist at 13 under, with Imahira at 12 under and Horikawa defeating Chan Kim in a playoff as the two tied at 11 under.
Ten sectionals remain, all to contested on June 3. The 2019 U.S. Open begins on June 13. Brooks Koepka is the defending champ.