Shizuoka, Japan (May 20): A stunning final-round surge propelled Jay Choi to his maiden Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) triumph in the 100 million yen (about US$1.2 million) Totoumi Hamamatsu Open.
Five shots off the pace in joint third overnight, the 28-year-old Korean-American raced to the finishing line with a splendid closing seven-under-par 65 over the 7,054-yard course at the Grandee Hamanako Golf Club in Shizuoka Prefecture.
That gave him a 72-hole total of 16-under 272 and a one-shot success from third round leader Yoshinori Fujimoto with Hideto Tanihara in third place on 274.
Following an opening-hole birdie, Choi, playing his third season on the JGTO, charged into contention with a run of four birdies on the trot from the fourth. He turned in five-under 31 to trail Fujimoto by just two.
Fujimoto edged further clear when he picked up a shot at the 11th, but it was the 456-yard, par-four 15th that was to prove pivotal. A bogey to Fujimoto and a birdie to Choi cut the deficit to one.
When Fujimoto bogeyed 17 they were all square. While the Japanese could only manage a par at the 586-yard 18th for a one-under 71, Choi, with the momentum in his favour, duly made his four to complete an accomplished, bogey-free performance.
Toru Taniguchi, winner of last week’s PGA Championship Nissin Cupnoodles Cup, tied for 10th at 279, but it was a disappointing week for Kim Kyung-tae and Ryo Ishikawa, the two highest ranked players in the field.
Korean Kim, the JGTO’s Money List winner in 2010, ended in a share of 30th spot on six-under 282 while Ishikawa, whose topsy-turvy campaign was illustrated with uneven rounds of 66, 77, 67 and 74, tied for 41st on 284.
Opting to play here rather than defend his title at OneAsia’s SK Telecom Open, Australian Kurt Barnes signed off with a 65 to climb into fourth place on 275.
Meanwhile, Masanori Kobayashi’s title defence came to a swift end when he followed an opening 69 with an 82 which included a triple-bogey eight at the 542-yard fourth where amateur Kotaro Kasamatsu ran up an 11.