• Open Championship

Amateur Matsuyama books Open debut

ESPN staff
March 1, 2013
Hideki Matsuyama has already played in The Masters twice © Getty Images

Japanese amateur sensation Hideki Matsuyama was one of four players to book their places at the Open Championship on Friday, following the conclusion of International Final Qualifying in Thailand.

Matsuyama, 21, sealed his first appearance in golf's oldest major with a second - and final - round score of 69 at Amata Springs Golf Club, good enough to finish second in the overall standings at nine-under par.

The youngster, ranked fifth in the official world amateur rankings, has previously played in The Masters twice - making the cut on both occasions, and finishing as the low amateur on his debut in 2011.

He will now make his first appearance at The Open at Muirfield later this year, having stumbled when on course to achieve his aim at the end of IFQ 12 months ago.

"I'm excited and happy because I made it," Matsuyama said. "After 16 and 17, I told myself to calm down which I did. I'm glad with the way I handled myself out there. This is my first appearance at The Open and I can't wait for it.

"I gained a lot of experience when I played in the Masters and it improved my game and maturity. I'm sure I'll become even better after playing in The Open."

The qualifying event was won by home favourite Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who closed with a stunning round of 63 to finish well clear of the field at 13-under. The 23-year-old, who has been compared to John Daly in Asia for his all-or-nothing style of play, is looking forward to testing himself against the world's best.

"I'm glad I achieved my first dream in golf which is to play in a major championship," Aphibarnrat said. "I want to do my best at the Open. It will be the biggest challenge and event in my life."

The other two qualifying spots on offer were claimed by Japan's Daisuke Maruyama and China's Ashun Wu - who both ended eight-under for 36 holes.

Elsewhere, 14-year-old prodigy Guanlang Tang will not be playing in this year's Open, after he finished in a tie for 53th after a closing round of 74 left him three-over.

The Chinese has already booked his spot in the field for this year's Masters at Augusta National, however, having edged out the likes of Matsuyama in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship late last year.

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