Yuta Ikeda of Japan produced a masterclass performance on the front nine to win the Panasonic Open Golf Championship by three shots after closing with a six-under-par 65 on Sunday.
The 30-year-old Ikeda turned in 29 before marking his card with a birdie on the last hole to clinch his 14th title in Japan with a winning total of 13-under-par 271 at the 150 million Yen (approximately US$1.27 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
He defeated current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Marcus Fraser of Australia and K.T. Kim, who settled for tied second place after posting matching 68s at the
Chiba Country Club, Umesato course.
Shugo Imahira of Japan finished a further shot back while overnight leader Shiv Kapur of India posted a disappointing 72 to finish in tied fifth place alongside Kodai Ichihara of Japan on 276.
Ikeda got off to a flying start when he made 10 putts on the first nine highlighted by six birdies to take charge. He dropped only one shot on hole 15 but tapped in for birdie on the last to clinch the title in style.
“It is great to win my 14th title in Japan and it is my first title after turning 30 (in December last year)!” said Ikeda, who won US$273,473.
“I played so well on the front nine and that kept the momentum going for me. My first six birdies were really great. I was able to put pressure on the rest of the guys,” he said.
Ikeda’s decision to make adjustments in his equipment before the final round paid off handsomely as he cruised to his first win in 2016.
“I felt something was wrong. It really helped when I changed the shaft in my equipment because I was hitting better. I feel it is good to make adjustments when you feel something is wrong,” added Ikeda.
Playing in the same group as Ikeda, Fraser, who won the Maybank Championship Malaysia in February to top the Order of Merit, said he struggled to keep up with the pace of his playing partner.
“I needed to get off to a fast start and that didn’t happen. Yuta (Ikeda) played nicely on the front and set himself up to win. I couldn’t keep up with him. He played flawless golf on the front and deserves to win,” said Fraser.
A disappointed Kapur, aiming to end an 11-year title drought on the Asian Tour, slipped out of contention when he double bogeyed the fifth hole after hitting a wayward drive. He dropped another shot on 11 but birdies on hole 14 and 18 earned him his best result in 2016.
“I got off to a steady start but made one bad swing on five. I hit it left then tried to hit a shot out of the trees but it hit a tree and went further into the bush and that compounded that error,” said Kapur.
“It was one of those days where nothing happened for me. I was just trying to grind out the scores and make something happen. I’m obviously disappointed not to play better in the final round but I’m also proud with the fact that I came back, fought hard and made a couple of birdies in my last four holes,” he added.
Scores after round 4 of the Panasonic Open Golf Championship being played at the par 71, 7130 Yards Chiba CC course (am – denotes amateur):
271 – Yuta IKEDA (JPN) 67-73-66-65.
274 – K.T. KIM (KOR) 69-69-68-68, Marcus FRASER (AUS) 71-68-67-68.
275 – Shugo IMAHIRA (JPN) 69-71-69-66.
276 – Kodai ICHIHARA (JPN) 69-65-71-71, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 68-67-69-72.
277 – Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) 72-68-66-71.
278 – Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 71-68-69-70.
279 – LU Wei-chih (TPE) 72-68-71-68, Shingo KATAYAMA (JPN) 72-72-67-68, Ryutaro NAGANO (JPN) 65-73-71-70, Toshinori MUTO (JPN) 71-67-70-71, HUNG Chien-yao (TPE) 70-67-69-73.
280 – Yoshinori FUJIMOTO (JPN) 72-71-69-68, Kazuki HIGA (am, JPN) 71-70-70-69, Atomu SHIGENAGA (JPN) 70-71-70-69, Azuma YANO (JPN) 67-69-74-70, Kiyoshi MIYAZATO (JPN) 70-70-70-70, Shintaro KOBAYASHI (JPN) 72-71-66-71.
281 – Yoshitaka TAKEYA (JPN) 75-68-67-71, Mingyu CHO (KOR) 71-70-68-72, Hidemasa HOSHINO (JPN) 67-74-67-73.
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