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Jun 28, 2024 7:51 pm

Hiroyuki Fujita takes narrow lead at U.S. Senior Open

hiroyuki fujita

Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan holds the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Senior Open, shooting a 4-under 66 on Friday to edge in front of Australian Richard Green at Newport (R.I.) Country Club.

After both Fujita and Green opened the major championship with rounds of 63, they sit comfortably at 11-under 129 and 10-under 130, respectively, as they enter the weekend.

Seven-time PGA Tour Champions major winner Steve Stricker is tied for third at 8 under with Englishman Richard Bland, the LIV Golf member who won the Senior PGA Championship last month. Stricker shot 66 and Bland fired a 6-under 64, one shot off the round of the day.

Stephen Ames of Canada, leader of the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race, sits fifth at 7 under after a 68.

Fujita followed his striking opening round by making five birdies and one bogey on Friday. For the second straight day, he stayed modest about his game — calling himself lucky and saying he didn’t expect to open Friday’s round the way he did, with four birdies in six holes.

“I surprised myself a little bit, but it’s only Day 2, and I want to continue to play consistent and not get too high or low and see where it takes me,” Fujita said.

The 55-year-old has never won in the United States, but he had a fruitful career in his home nation, winning 18 times on the Japan Golf Tour.

Green, 53, is ready to play with Fujita in the final pairing Saturday after watching where his chief competitor was on the leaderboard.

“He obviously had a great start, another great round. So he must be feeling pretty comfortable out there,” Green said. “… Obviously aware of Steve Stricker and the good round to get up to that position where I was tied with him for second for a long part of the day until I sort of made a couple (birdies) towards the end.”

Green has also never won stateside, with three European Tour wins among the 10 titles in his career.

Stricker’s experience may give him a boost entering the weekend. His second straight round of 66 featured five birdies to one bogey.

“We came out with soft conditions (Thursday). Well, (Friday) we came out with completely the opposite wind to what we’ve seen the course in,” Stricker said. “It was a north wind all the way around. 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.”

The highlight of Bland’s bogey-free round was a pitch-in for eagle at the par-4 second hole.

Bland, 51, won his first start in any 50-and-over tournament when he captured the Senior PGA Championship.

“If I can just kind of give myself some better looks at some putts, you know, a little bit straighter ones, then like I said, I think there’s still a couple of good scores for me this weekend,” Bland said. “Still probably going to need it. There’s a lot of good players out there.”

Frank Bensel Jr. missed the 2-over cut line by seven shots, but that won’t be what he remembers from this week.

Bensel achieved the ultra-rare feat of back-to-back holes-in-one. Both Nos. 4 and 5 at Newport are par-3 holes, and improbably, he knocked both tee shots in. He said he did not see his shot at No. 4 go in, but he watched the shot at No. 5 the whole way.

Bensel described it as an “out-of-body experience.”

“This will be remembered obviously forever and ever,” Bensel said. “This could be the highlight (of his golf career).”

–Field Level Media

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