Muto clinches maiden Asian Tour title with victory at Panasonic OPEN

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Japan’s Toshinori Muto collected his first Asian Tour title in style after closing with a second straight seven-under-par 64 to win by four shots at the Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship on Sunday.

The 41-year-old Muto halted a winless streak of four years after firing eight birdies against a bogey to cap a winning total of 21-under-par 263, setting a record lowest 72-hole score in the tournament that is celebrating its 10th edition this week.

Starting the day with a one-shot edge, Muto rode on his fine form to pull away from the chasing pack at the Higashi Hirono Golf Club. His four-shot triumph would also match the largest winning margin record in the tournament set earlier by Daisuke Maruyama in 2009.

Shugo Imahira, who entered the week as the second highest-ranked Japanese on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), came in runner-up after closing with three straight birdies for a 67. Home favourite Ryo Ishikawa carded a commendable 66 to finish one shot back in third.

Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand battled to a 71 to finish in fourth place on 271. The result was enough to help him win the second edition of the Panasonic Swing series with 3,021 points and take home a top bonus prize of US$70,000.

Thai duo Poom Saksansin and Panuphol Pittayarat secured second and third places on the final Panasonic Swing rankings, earning US$50,000 and US$30,000 respectively from the reward scheme.

The ¥150,000,000 (approx. US$1,338,067) event, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO), is the concluding leg of the 2018/19 Panasonic Swing.

The Panasonic Swing is based on an aggregate point ranking earned by players at the following five tournaments – 2018 Thailand Open, 2018 Panasonic Open India, 2018 Indonesian Masters, 2019 Maybank Championship (Malaysia) and 2019 Panasonic Open Golf Championship (Japan).

Did you know?

  • Toshinori Muto started playing golf when he was a kid. His family from his mother side owned a driving range back then.
  • The 41-year-old Muto turned professional in 2001. With this victory at the Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship, Muto is now a seven-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour. His last victory was the 2015 ISPS HANDA Global Cup.
  • Muto would take home a winner’s prize purse of ¥30,000,000 (approx. US$267,613), thanks to his victory at the Higashi Hirono Golf Club.
  • He is the second Japanese, following Yosuke Asaji, to win on the Asian Tour this season.
  • Muto successfully recaptured the trophy on home soil after India’s Rahil Gangjee became only the second foreign player to win the tournament last year.
  • Prior to this week, Muto was ranked 519th on the OWGR. His career-best position was 102nd at the end of 2012.
  • Muto needed only 25 putts in his solid rounds of 64 today.
  • Shugo Imahira topped the Merit rankings on the Japan Golf Tour in 2018. He was a former member of the Asian Tour in 2016 and 2017.
  • He entered the week in 72nd place on the latest OWGR as the second highest-ranked Japanese in the world. The 26-year-old, who hails from Saitama, is the highest-ranked Japanese in the 132-man field this week.
  • Imahira’s runner-up finish would mark his fourth consecutive top-10 finish on the Japan Golf Tour and second straight one on the Asian Tour.
  • Ryo Ishikawa won his first Japan Golf Tour event, the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup, when he was only 15 years 8 months and 3 days old.
  • The 28-year-old Ishikawa was playing that event as an amateur in his first Japan Golf Tour start, and winning the tournament made him the youngest winner ever on the Japan Golf Tour.
  • Ishikawa turned professional in 2008 and by the end of the year he had become the youngest ever player to reach the top 100 of the OWGR, ending the year ranked 60th.
  • Ishikawa won this year’s Japan PGA Championship and Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGASAMMY Cup in consecutive starts on the Japan Golf Tour.
  • Jazz Janewattananond is the only player to have won more than once on the Asian Tour so far this season. He claimed his third title at the season-opening Singapore Open in January and secured his fourth victory at the Kolon Korea Open in June.
  • At the age of 23 years 6 months and 27 days, Jazz becomes the youngest ever player to achieve four wins on Tour. India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar held the record previously after he won his fourth title in 2012 at the age of 24.
  • Jazz entered the week in 60th position on the OWGR and he was the highest-ranked player in the talented field this week.
  • Apart from the two victories, Jazz has now notched six top-10 finishes on the Asian Tour this season, following his solo fourth result at the Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship. He would extend his lead on the Order of Merit with a season’s haul of US$833,524.
  • Jazz also enjoyed a tied-14th place finish at the PGA Championship in June which was the best-ever result achieved by a Thai player at the PGA Championship.

Players’ quotes:

Toshinori Muto (Jpn) – Final round 64 (-7), Total 263 (-21)

I am really glad that I played well today. It has been four years. It is a really long time. After opening with two birdies, I started to play a little less aggressive. I felt my swing was loose. So I talked to my caddy and we discussed about what to do.

If I continue to play like that, with a loose swing, other players will be able to spot my weakness. So starting from the sixth hole, we decided to just go for the pins and try to make birdies.

I have been working with my caddy, Oda, for 12 years. He knows what I am thinking. He knows it when my mental game is not there or when I am losing concentration. He kept me focused and I did that on the back nine to win the tournament.

I know Ryo Ishikawa was chasing, by listening to the spectators’ cheers. But I told myself to just play my game. Some players tell me that I am too aggressive sometimes, always aiming the pins, but this is my style and I am glad that I am here right now with the trophy. 

Shugo Imahira (Jpn) – Final round 67 (-4), Total 267 (-17)

I tried to catch up today but I made a mistake on the seventh hole where i pulled the shot. That was something I should not have done. But other than that, I played my best. Muto was just too aggressive making birdies, I couldn’t stop him.

Score wise, I am happy. But I am not satisfied with my shots today. Before Muto makes mistake, I made mistake with on the seventh and ended up with a double-bogey. I was playing against the wind, tried hitting an eight-iron from 143 yards but pulled that shot.

It was a difficult approach, there was a small mound behind the ball. I have to hit the ball high, but hit the club a little too strong. It was a good finish with three straight birdies. I hope this result will boost my game and I can do better in the next tournament.

Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn) – Final round 66 (-5), Total 268 (-16)

Whether I can win the tournament or not really depends on how Muto plays today. I played good and scored a 66 but he played even better. I tried my best and that is what you need to do. It has been a good week and I am sure this result will help me in my game in future.

This is a course that I have difficulties playing in the past. So I am really pleased with how I finished on this course this week.

Muto played well. I was actually aiming for 20-under. But I know now that even if I made it to 20-under, I won’t be able to catch up. He shot another seven-under again today. That’s really impressive. I know Muto’s game. When he gets into the zone, no one can stop him.

Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) – Final round 70 (-1), Total 271 (-13)

It’s an honor to win the Panasonic Swing. I didn’t even know I had a chance to win until the last minute. I think it’s a nice to see sponsors like Panasonic trying to grow the game of golf. Their support has such a big impact on the Asian golf community.

The game is almost back on track. You know I haven’t posted a good finish in a while, but today it seems like I almost got it. I just couldn’t get the round I wanted, couldn’t get the ball in the hole. You can’t really force the win if you are not putting well but overall, I’m pretty happy with my result.

I have been trying to get my game back on track before the three big tournaments coming up – the CJ Cup, the ZOZO Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions. I feel it’s coming back and I am happy to post a good result this week before these big events.

Scores after round 4 of the Panasonic Open Golf Championship being played at the par 71, 7058 Yards Higashi Hirono CC course (am – denotes amateur):

263 – Toshinori Muto (JPN) 65-70-64-64.

267 – Shugo Imahira (JPN) 65-69-66-67.

268 – Ryo Ishikawa (JPN) 72-62-68-66.

271 – Jazz Janewattananond (THA) 66-69-66-70.

272 – Jbe Kruger (RSA) 71-66-69-66, Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN) 70-70-66-66, Hosung Choi (KOR) 68-68-69-67, Katsumasa Miyamoto (JPN) 73-66-66-67.

273 – Brendan Jones (AUS) 67-70-66-70.

274 – Shaun Norris (RSA) 68-71-69-66, Shingo Katayama (JPN) 70-67-69-68.

275 – Yoshitaka Takeya (JPN) 73-68-66-68, Sanghyun Park (KOR) 69-70-67-69, Miguel Carballo (ARG) 67-68-66-74.

276 – Masanori Kobayashi (JPN) 69-70-70-67, Taihei Sato (JPN) 69-68-70-69, Koki Shiomi (JPN) 71-70-66-69.

For final results and earnings, please click here.

For final Panasonic Swing rankings, please click here

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