ERIN, WISCONSIN – Yusaku Miyazato has always had to seek reflected glory in the shadow of his younger sister Ai, but since the former world No. 1 announced her retirement, he appears to have raised his level of play a notch while awaiting his turn to shine.
Having already won two titles this season, the 36-year-old, the second of the three siblings in the golfing family from Okinawa, is looking forward to putting on a much-improved performance at the U.S. Open this week after finishing 23rd in his debut last year.
He won The Crowns on April 30 and Japan PGA Championship two weeks later, and wants to play convincingly enough in the $12 million event so he can make his name known after being referred to as “Ai-chan’s brother” all his life.
His older brother Kiyoshi also plays professionally, but neither of them have enjoyed the stardom and success Ai has.
Ai won nine titles on the U.S. LPGA tour and 15 on the Japanese tour, and announced late last month she decided to draw the curtain on her 14-year pro career at the end of this season at 31.
“I really, really wanted to compete (at the U.S. Open),” said Yusaku.
“I’ve been consistent in my drives, so with that in mind I can plan my four-day game.”
Yusaku said he learned an important lesson at the U.S. Open played at the 7,254-yard Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania last year, but was made to pay a price for it.
“It was such a tough course and I felt the barriers between myself and the world’s (best players). I learned what I had to work on. Since then, my game has changed,” he said.
This year the U.S. Open, one of the four majors, will be held at Erin Hills in Wisconsin with the layout listed at 7,741 yards. It is the first time since 1992 the U.S. Open is played as a par 72.
Yusaku says his goal is to record under-par scores in each of the four rounds, while Japanese compatriot and world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama set the bar low and safe for himself as he makes his fifth straight U.S. Open appearance.
“I want to aim to win, but each day counts. I have to persevere and play safely so I don’t fall behind from day one,” said Matsuyama after his practice holes.
Hideto Tanihara, Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira and Shugo Imahira are the other Japanese taking part in the June 15-18 tournament featuring 156 players.
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