Australia’s Scott Hend was denied an 11th victory on the Asian Tour today after an inspired performance by Takahiro Hataji saw him become the first player from Japan to win the New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport.

In a pulsating finish here at Millbrook Resort, just outside Queenstown, Hend, to the gasp of a large gallery, missed a three-foot par-putt on the par-three 18th to hand Hataji a one-stroke victory.

Hataji fired an accomplished bogey-free four-under-par 67 for a four-round total of 17-under, while Hend shot a 69.

Australians Anthony Quayle (67) and Matthew Griffin (70) plus New Zealand’s Josh Geary (69) tied for third, two behind the champion. 

Hend, joint-leader at the start of the day with Griffin, birdied 16 and 17 to draw level with Hataji, who was playing in the group ahead, but then three-putted the last hole. His first putt to win the event was from about 20 feet.

It is one of biggest upset wins in the history of the Asian Tour as little-known Hataji has never won before, with his previous best performance coming in last year’s Kansai Open Golf Championship in Japan, where he was runner-up.

He started the day one shot behind the leaders and despite his lack of experience he gradually worked his way to the top with two birdies on the front nine, followed by two more on the second half – crucial birdies on 12 and 15 gave him a two-shot lead over the closing stages.

The 30-year-old narrowly missed a 15-footer for birdie on the last shortly before Hend, who looked like he would force a play-off at the very least, uncharacteristically finished poorly.  

“I was preparing for a play-off,” Hataji said later.

“I am really thrilled, very happy. The whole day was a fight. It was a struggle, but I am happy I came through it. My emotions really came to the surface. 

“I holed a long putt on the 11th, and that’s when I felt I can do this.”

Hataji, a professional since 2104, becomes the first Japanese player to win on the Asian Tour since Takumi Kanaya at the International Series Oman last year.

If Hend had won, then at the age of 50, he would have become the oldest winner of the event. He does have the consolation of closing the gap on Asian Tour Career Earnings leader Thongchai Jaidee from Thailand. Hend won US$114,289 today and is in second place, just US$280,190 behind, with total earnings of US$5,483,197.

Asian Tour regular Ian Snyman from South Africa completed one of his best performances on Tour, closing with a 69 to tie for sixth, along with Australian Justin Warren – third at this year’s Asian Tour Qualifying School – who shot a 68. 

Hong Kong hotshot Taichi Kho just two off the pace after round three was expected to mount a challenge today by shot a 71 to end equal 14th.

Young Indonesian golfer Jonathan Wijono, who plays on the Asian Development Tour, completed a memorable week, signing for a 68 to finish in a tie for 34th, which helped him and amateur partner Jubilant Harmidy win the Pro-Am part of the tournament.

Total prizemoney this week was NZ$2 million (approximately US$1.22million). For his victory Hataji received a cheque for US$201,686.

The tournament was jointly-sanctioned with the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia, in partnership with the Japan Tour.

The Asian Tour has a week off now before heading to the International Series Macau presented by Wynn. The inaugural US$2million event will be played at Macau Golf and Country Club from March 14-17. It’s the second tournament on this year’s 10-event International Series and fourth on stop on the Asian Tour.

Scores after round 4 of the New Zealand Open 2024 being played at the par 71, 6368 Metres Coronet Sat/Sun course (am – denotes amateur):
267 – Takahiro Hataji (JPN) 69-65-66-67.
268 – Scott Hend (AUS) 64-66-69-69.
269 – Anthony Quayle (AUS) 67-69-66-67, Josh Geary (NZL) 67-65-68-69, Matthew Griffin (AUS) 64-68-67-70.
270 – Ben Wharton (AUS) 65-71-70-64, Brad Kennedy (AUS) 67-70-66-67, Justin Warren (AUS) 69-69-64-68, Ian Snyman (RSA) 71-65-65-69.
271 – Kade McBride (AUS) 66-67-71-67, Ben Campbell (NZL) 65-69-70-67, Zack Swanwick (am, NZL) 67-68-68-68, Louis Dobbelaar (AUS) 69-68-66-68.
272 – Luke Toomey (NZL) 67-70-69-66, Nick Voke (NZL) 68-65-71-68, Kieran Muir (NZL) 66-68-70-68, Daniel Gale (AUS) 67-71-66-68, Jediah Morgan (AUS) 71-65-67-69, James Hydes (NZL) 68-70-64-70, Taichi Kho (HKG) 67-67-67-71.
273 – Taihei Sato (JPN) 67-69-69-68, Berry Henson (USA) 68-69-68-68, Matias Sanchez (AUS) 67-71-67-68, Gunn Charoenkul (THA) 65-69-69-70, Mikumu Horikawa (JPN) 71-64-68-70.
274 – Adam Bland (AUS) 69-67-71-67, Wooyoung Cho (KOR) 67-69-71-67, Ryosuke Kinoshita (JPN) 69-69-69-67, Ryuko Tokimatsu (JPN) 70-67-67-70, Andrew Kelly (AUS) 69-68-67-70, Jak Carter (AUS) 70-68-66-70, Cameron John (AUS) 74-64-66-70, Kodai Ichihara (JPN) 71-66-63-74.
275 – Jonathan Wijono (INA) 67-66-74-68, Lachlan Barker (AUS) 70-68-69-68, Yuta Sugiura (JPN) 68-65-73-69, Michael Sim (AUS) 70-68-68-69, Brady Watt (AUS) 69-68-68-70, Sam Brazel (AUS) 65-67-70-73.
276 – Deyen Lawson (AUS) 71-67-69-69, Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 70-68-68-70, Zach Murray (AUS) 66-69-70-71, Jared du Toit (CAN) 68-67-69-72, Brett Coletta (AUS) 67-67-69-73.
277 – Dongwoo Kang (NZL) 71-67-71-68, Tomoharu Otsuki (JPN) 69-67-72-69, Jack Murdoch (AUS) 66-70-72-69, Andre Lautee (AUS) 68-68-72-69, Kyle Michel (AUS) 68-67-72-70, David Micheluzzi (AUS) 67-67-71-72, Joshua Bai (am, NZL) 70-67-68-72, Harry Bateman (NZL) 69-68-68-72, Naoki Sekito (JPN) 69-66-69-73.
278 – Daniel Hillier (NZL) 67-65-77-69, Chang Woo Lee (KOR) 70-68-70-70, Andrew Evans (AUS) 68-70-67-73, JungHyun Um (KOR) 65-71-66-76.
279 – Stefano Mazzoli (ITA) 69-67-73-70, Maverick Antcliff (AUS) 70-67-72-70, Han Lee (USA) 68-66-74-71, Brendan Jones (AUS) 69-69-70-71, Travis Smyth (AUS) 69-69-69-72, Carlos Pigem (ESP) 66-70-68-75, Aaron Pike (AUS) 67-69-66-77.
280 – Chang Gi Lee (NZL) 67-71-72-70, Kevin Yuan (AUS) 65-69-74-72, James Marchesani (AUS) 70-66-72-72, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 66-66-73-75.
281 – Justin de Los Santos (PHI) 70-68-71-72, Jasper Stubbs (am, AUS) 70-68-70-73, Derek Ackerman (USA) 70-67-70-74.
282 – Justin Quiban (PHI) 69-68-75-70, Matt Killen (ENG) 67-68-76-71, Gareth Paddison (NZL) 70-67-70-75, Corey Lamb (AUS) 69-69-69-75.
283 – Soonsang Hong (KOR) 65-68-75-75.
284 – Kerry Mountcastle (NZL) 71-67-75-71.
285 – Jarryd Felton (AUS) 66-71-70-78.

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