Chiba, Japan: Yuta Ikeda produced a final-round masterclass to win the Panasonic Open Golf Championship by three shots after closing with a six-under-par 65.
The 30-year-old Japanese 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 271 at the 150 million Yen (about 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 Korean Kim Kyung-tae, who settled for tied second place after posting matching 68s over the Chiba Country Club’s Umesato Course.
Shugo Imahira of Japan finished a further shot back while overnight leader Shiv Kapur of India posted a 72 to finish joint fifth with Japan’s Kodai Ichihara on 276.
Ikeda got off to a flying start. He required just 10 putts on the first nine, which was highlighted by six birdies. He dropped a shot on 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. “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 February’s Maybank Championship Malaysia, said he struggled to keep up with the pace of his playing partner.
“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.
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.