Steve Stricker lines up his putt on the 18th hole during the third round of the 2024 U.S. Senior Open - Photo Credit: Kathryn Riley/USGA

Newport Showdown: Fujita Leads, Stricker Close Behind at U.S. Senior Open

Steve Stricker knows a thing or two about sealing the deal on Sundays. With seven senior major championships under his belt, including the 2019 U.S. Senior Open, Stricker understands the patience and consistency required for a 72-hole major.

But this week, no one has been more consistent at Newport Country Club than Hiroyuki Fujita. The 55-year-old Japanese golfer has been a model of precision, missing just one fairway and carding only one bogey through three rounds of the 44th U.S. Senior Open. Fujita’s third-round 3-under 67 on a cloudy Saturday has kept him atop the leaderboard at 14-under 196, a spot he’s held since Thursday.

Yet, his lead is a slim two strokes heading into the final round. Hot on his heels is Stricker, the 57-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, who fired a third consecutive 66 to sit at 12-under 198. Stricker’s U.S. Senior Open record is impeccable: a win and two runner-up finishes in 2022 and 2023. His final-round average is an impressive 67.6, highlighted by a 65 two years ago when he nearly caught Padraig Harrington.

Trailing by three at 11-under 199 is Australian lefty Richard Green, who shot a third-round 69. Green, the runner-up at this year’s Senior PGA Championship, is looking to make a final-round push.

These three will tee off together again on Sunday, with tee times moved up due to impending weather. They played together on Saturday amid similar conditions with fog predicted to roll in.

Further back, but still in contention, are Englishman Richard Bland, Bob Estes, and Paul Stankowski, sitting five, six, and seven strokes behind respectively. Bland, the 2024 Senior PGA winner, reached 10-under briefly before settling for a 69. Estes matched the low round of the day with a 66, while Stankowski shot 69. Rocco Mediate, the 2008 U.S. Open runner-up, is in solo seventh at 8-under after a 67.

Fujita’s performance has been nothing short of machine-like. An 18-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour and last year’s Japan Senior Open champion, he’s on the cusp of becoming the first male Japanese golfer to win a USGA title. He started strong with a birdie on the par-5 first and added two more on six and nine, turning in 32. A crucial 10-foot par save at 15 kept his card clean.

Stricker, meanwhile, made a significant up-and-down birdie on the first and a critical 15-foot par save on the second. “I putted the ball really nicely again today,” Stricker said, who, along with Fujita and Green, has 15 birdies this week. “That [par putt on No. 2] was an important one right at the start of the round.”

Despite trailing by four most of the day, Stricker cut the gap with a two-putt birdie on 16 and a 20-footer on 17. He nearly pulled closer on 18 but left his 15-footer inches short.

“He didn’t really miss a shot all the way around,” Stricker said of Fujita. “We’re going to have to go out and have a good round to try to catch him.”

Green, aiming to be the first lefty to win the U.S. Senior Open, has been solid but unspectacular. Overcoming consecutive bogeys on five and six, he birdied the 14th and 16th to stay within striking distance. The 53-year-old has 10 worldwide wins, including the 1997 Dubai Desert Classic, and three European Senior Tour victories.

“I’m pretty low on the stress scale,” Green said. “Hopefully, I can feel like that tomorrow.”

As the final round looms, all eyes will be on Fujita, Stricker, and Green as they vie for the coveted Francis D. Ouimet Memorial Trophy.

What’s Next

The final round starts at 8:20 a.m. EDT, with the leaders teeing off at 10:20 a.m. Live streaming begins on Peacock at 10:30 a.m. and switches to NBC from 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. In the event of a tie after 72 holes, a two-hole aggregate playoff on Nos. 10 and 18 will decide the champion.


Sub-par rounds decreased from 42 on Day 1 to 29 on Friday and just 23 on Saturday. The scoring average was 71.11, compared to 71.78 for Round 1 and 72.49 on Friday. Steve Stricker, Paul Broadhurst, and Bob Estes posted the day’s low rounds with 66s.

Fujita also moonlights as a TV commentator in Japan and recently shared that it was a “long eight hours,” but the booth’s coffee and snacks were good.

Of the 71 professionals making the cut, 22 were qualifiers, including alternate Guy Boros, grandson of 1963 U.S. Open champion Julius Boros. Massachusetts natives Fran Quinn and Jeff Martin, and Australian Matthew Goggin, also made the cut.

Thirty-six Americans made the cut, along with players from 16 other countries. Australian Mark Hensby celebrated his 52nd birthday Saturday with a 3-over 73 after a second-round 63.




Like Newport Buzz? We depend on the generosity of readers like you who support us, to help with our mission to keep you informed and entertained with local, independent news and content. We truly appreciate your trust and support!