Fujita (129) Keeps Wind in his Sail For 36-Hole Lead at Newport C.C.

By David Shefter, USGA

| Jun 28, 2024 | Newport, R.I.

Fujita (129) Keeps Wind in his Sail For 36-Hole Lead at Newport C.C.

Senior major championships have not been particularly kind to Hiroyuki Fujita. Granted, it’s a small sample size – three appearances coming into this week’s 44th U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club – but the 55-year-old from Japan seems to have found a liking to the Ocean State.

At least through the first 36 holes.

Fujita, who won 18 times on the Japan Golf Tour and three more on its senior circuit including the 2023 Japan Senior Open, carded a second-consecutive sub-70 round on a glorious summer Friday at one of the USGA’s five founding clubs to take a one-shot lead over Australian lefty Richard Green.

Despite seeing his bogey-free streak end at 30 holes, Fujita managed a 4-under 66 for a 36-hole total of 11-under 129, just three shots off the midway record held by 2019 champion Steve Stricker. Green, the 18-hole co-leader with Fujita, answered his first-round 63 with a 67.

Seven-time senior major champion Stricker, the runner-up in the U.S. Senior Open the past two years, fired a second-consecutive 66 and sits three shots back at 132, along with Englishman Richard Bland, who carded the day’s second-lowest, a 6-under 64. Mark Hensby, of Australia, fired a 63 after an opening 75.

Canadian Stephen Ames, an eight-time winner on PGA Tour Champions still seeking a maiden major title, is four back after a second-round 68. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, Thomas Bjorn and Paul Stankowski are five shots back after posting 67, 66 and 67, respectively.

The cut came at 2-over 142 with 71 professionals surviving to play the weekend.

Coming into this week, Fujita had not broken 70 in his three senior major starts, including the 2023 U.S. Senior Open at SentryWorld where he did not go lower than 73 in four trips around the Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout. In two Senior PGA Championship starts – 2023 and 2024 – he finished T-37 and T-51, respectively. Fujita did not better 71 in the most recent Senior PGA in Benton Harbor, Mich.

But in Japan, he’s no stranger to going low. Three times during his long career on the Japan Golf Tour he registered 10 birdies in one round. He finished third on the 2023 Japan Senior Golf Tour money list to earn a spot in this year’s U.S. Senior Open.

Australian lefty Richard Green will enter the weekend just one stroke back after firing a 67 on Friday at Newport C.C. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

Australian lefty Richard Green will enter the weekend just one stroke back after firing a 67 on Friday at Newport C.C. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

“Yesterday, there wasn't that much wind, and it was a lot softer on the greens,” said Fujita through a translator. “Today I battled the wind a little bit, and the greens were definitely a little firmer, in my mind.”

Fujita, bidding to become the first male USGA champion from Japan (Yuka Saso won this year’s U.S. Women’s Open Presented by Ally, Saki Baba and Machiko Hattori have claimed U.S. Women’s Amateurs), came out of the gate on Friday with a birdie on his opening hole, the par-4 10th, and added three more to turn in 31. That included an 8-iron on the 186-yard 17th hole to 3 feet.

“I didn't expect that at all,” said Fujita of his hot start. “I surprised myself a little bit, but it's only day two, and I want to continue to play consistent and not get too high or low and see where it takes me.”

A birdie on the 317-yard second hole – his 11th of the day – got him to 12 under before he made his lone mistake on the par-3 fourth, hitting his tee shot into a bunker and failing to convert his 25-foot par putt.

The 53-year-old Green, vying to become the first southpaw champion of the U.S. Senior Open and owner of three European Senior Tour victories, got some momentum going by stuffing his approach on the 462-yard 18th hole – his ninth – to 4 feet for a birdie and then followed with another short birdie on the par-5 first. From there, he registered eight consecutive pars.

“It was much tougher conditions today with the wind,” said Green. “Something we faced in the last couple of holes yesterday, but not for the whole round. There was some really testing shots out there, coming through 4, 5, 6 and early holes on the back nine, 10, 11, 12, 13. Some really, really tough, demanding shots. I was able to hit some good ones when I needed to and hang in there when I needed to.”

The biggest adjustment for Stricker on Friday was dealing with a wind from the opposite direction. While the course continued to dry out from the rain Wednesday night/Thursday morning, a different wind made things a bit more challenging for the early Friday starters.

“It was a north wind all the way around,” said Stricker. “I thought at some point it may change for us, which it's supposed to do again this afternoon, come out of the south. But haven't seen this course in this wind before, and it was pretty steady wind right out of the chute for us today. It was a challenge. There are some holes that played a little bit easier, but some of the holes that played easy yesterday were difficult today.

“You just kind of have to put your nose in that yardage book and trust where you're going. I hit different clubs off the tees today than I hit yesterday, so it was a little bit of a school room atmosphere.”

Starting on No. 10, Stricker birdied Nos. 11 and 12 and added two more on Nos. 1 and 2 after turning in 33. After making a bogey on No. 7, he closed his round like he did on Thursday with a birdie. He knocked a wedge from 121 yards to 10 feet. 

Steve Stricker's second-consecutive 66 has the Wisconsin native in solid position to win a second U.S. Senior Open title in five years. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

Steve Stricker's second-consecutive 66 has the Wisconsin native in solid position to win a second U.S. Senior Open title in five years. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

Bland, a member of LIV Golf who got into the U.S. Senior Open by winning this year’s Senior PGA Championship, started the day five strokes off the lead at 2 under par. Birdies at 16, 18 and 1 got him to 5 under, and then he eagled the 317-yard, par-4 second by holing a 50-yard shot. He closed with another birdie on No. 8.

“The confidence is pretty good,” said Bland. “I came off a good week last week in Nashville. If I can just kind of give myself some better looks at some putts … then I think there's still a couple of good scores for me this weekend. No illusions this weekend. I've got to go out and play my best. Hopefully, if I do that, that will be good enough.”

What’s Next

A total of 71 professionals will play the final 36 holes on Saturday and Sunday. The third round on Saturday will commence at 8 a.m. EDT with live streaming on Peacock from 10 a.m. to noon EDT, and NBC picking up the coverage from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are available for both weekend rounds by clicking here

Richard Bland, of England, had the low round of the day (64) on Friday to vault into a share of third at 8-under 132. (USGA/Kathryn Riley)

Richard Bland, of England, fired a 64 on Friday to vault into a share of third at 8-under 132. (USGA/Kathryn Riley)


  • Frank Bensel Jr., a teaching professional at Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., and the Club at Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., made USGA history with back-to-back holes-in-one on the par-3 fourth and fifth holes. He used a 6-iron on both holes, which measured 173 and 202 yards, respectively. They were the 22nd and 23rd aces in U.S. Senior Open history. He’s the second known player to have multiple aces in a single USGA championship, joining Donald Bliss from the 1987 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas. He had two aces in the first round of stroke play. Born and raised in White Plains, N.Y., Bensel lists Jupiter, Fla., as his hometown.

  • Bensel donated his 6-iron, ball and glove to the USGA Museum in Liberty Corner, N.J., following his round.

  • Rhode Island natives Billy Andrade and Brett Quigley each posted 2-under 138 to make the cut. Also surviving the cut on the number was Fran Quinn, a Holden, Mass., resident who was the oldest qualifier in the field at the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Jeff Martin, of Attleboro, Mass., who hit the first ball on Thursday morning, made the cut at 1-over 141.

  • Defending champion Bernhard Langer, and past champions Jim Furyk (2021), Olin Browne (2011), Jeff Maggert (2015), and Kenny Perry (2013 and 2017), all made the cut on the number (142).

  • A total of nine Newport Country Club caddies were employed by competitors this week, along with two members. Member Henrik de Koning carried for David Heinen, while Chip Hayes was on the bag for Scott Fawcett, who was the caddie for Will Zalatoris when he won the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur at The Club at Carlton Woods. The NCC caddies this week were Petey Alofsin, John Baldwin, Nate Bellagamba, Jackson Gorman, Lou Morini, Cam Moniz, Shane Mulhern, Wells Robinson and Paul Shannon.

  • Tom Williams, who was hired by Sam Snead to caddie in the 1982 NYNEX Commemorative Senior Tour event at Newport Country Club, has returned 42 years later at age 68 to be on the bag of qualifier William Yanisigawa. Yanisigawa, a member of Stanford’s 1994 NCAA title team with 2024 U.S. Senior Open competitors Notah Begay III and Brad Lanning, carded a 69 on Friday to make the cut.

  • None of the 19 amateurs in the field made the cut. The last time that happened was 2022 at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa. It also happened in 2019 at the Warren Course at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

  • Notable players who missed the cut included champions Gene Sauers (2016), Fred Funk (2009), David Toms (2018) and Colin Montgomerie (2014) as well as reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion Todd White and 71-year-old Gary Koch, the oldest qualifier in championship history.

  • Gary Koch’s USGA career has spanned from the 1968 U.S. Junior Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., as a 16-year-old to this year’s U.S. Senior Open. The Tampa, Fla., resident won the 1969 U.S. Junior Amateur and later played on two victorious USA Walker Cup Teams (1973 and 1975), a winning USA World Amateur Team (1974), 17 U.S. Opens (two as an amateur) and five U.S. Senior Opens (all as a qualifier).

  • Mike Weir withdrew from the championship after hitting his tee shot on the par-5 first hole – his 10th of the round – due to a hand/wrist injury.

  • Mark Hensby's 63, which was helped by a second-nine 29, moved the Australian from a tie for 109th to a share of 24th.


“I'm aware, and there are other players like [Masters champion Hideki] Matsuyama, who have won majors out here. I just didn't expect myself to be maybe the guy that's going to do it.” – Hiroyuki Fujita on the chance to be the first male player from Japan to win a USGA title

“It's a long ways to go. We're halfway … done. There's a lot of golf left to be played. Who knows, I haven't looked at the conditions or the weather report going into the weekend. But I think that's going to be the story here. That's the part that you've got to kind of manage the most around here.” – Steve Stricker

“It wasn't easy. The wind kind of switched on us literally when we were just hitting the final putts on the [practice] putting green. So I'm thinking we might to hit the 10th tee shot downwind but it played into [the wind]. Obviously, it makes the into-the-wind holes a lot tougher. That's kind of the way the course plays. There are not too many crosswinds, so that does make it a little easier. You haven't got to worry about too much curvature on the ball that way.” – Richard Bland on the wind

“You've got to be patient. You've got to think your way around the golf course. This is different kind of golf. It's linksy. I haven't played much linksy kind of golf. Thankful for the rain we had a couple days ago. It softened it up a little bit. So, the golf course is definitely playable, as we've seen, a lot of low scores. Tomorrow, if the breeze picks up, it's going to get a little firmer and going to be a little tougher.” – Paul Stankowski

“I think golf's a momentum game in the mind. Golf's difficult when you're challenged and you're under pressure all the time and you're a little bit of position in shots. So if you can be steady and having good momentum going your way, it just sets you in a good frame of mind for the rest of the day.” – Richard Green

“If I play like I did today [I’m] in for a good weekend. Golf is a funny game. It could be very different tomorrow. So, we'll see where we are. Hit some balls and get some good rest and then we go again.” – Thomas Bjorn on being in contention

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.