Shugo Imahira reemphasises class with Diamond Cup triumph

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Shugo Imahira - TheGolfingHub
Apart from pocketing ¥20,000,000 to vault him to fifth on the money list, the victory also secured Shugo Imahira a third appearance in The Open at St Andrews this July. Photo: JGTO

Two-time Order of Merit champion Shugo Imahira continued his remarkable record of winning at least one title in every season since 2017 after being crowned the winner of the Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup on Sunday.

The 29-year-old, who began the day in tied fifth and one shot off the pace, shot a two-under-par 68 at the Oarai Golf Club to finish at eight-under-par 272 to win by just one shot from a group of four players tied for second that included current money leader Yuto Katsuragawa.

Related: Ben Campbell in with chance for glory in faraway Japan

Imahira grabbed the lead at 15th from Katsuragawa, who at one stage appeared to be heading towards a second victory of the season before he conceded a bogey on the same hole.

 

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Imahira started well with two birdies at the fourth and sixth, but a dropped shot at the par-three eighth halted his good run.

But it did little to dampen his spirit as he made six consecutive pars before scoring his third birdie of the day and pounced on Katsuragawa’s misfortune.

Imahira was pleased to have nailed his sixth JGTO title early in the season.

“I’m very happy with this victory. I didn’t get any good results so far this year, so I’m glad to be able to win early here,” said Imahira, whose last victory came at the Fujisankei in last year’s September.

Apart from pocketing ¥20,000,000 to vault him to fifth on the money list, the victory also secured him a third appearance in The Open at St Andrews this July.

After two missed cuts, he intends to break the duck this time.

“This year’s Open will be held at St Andrews. I’ve been longing to play there since I was a boy. I’m so happy to be finally able to compete there.

“My goal for The Open is to make the cut before anything else. Once I’m able to do that, my goal will then be to finish as high as possible on the leaderboard.”

 

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Buoyed by a good performance this week, Imahira also hopes to carry the momentum into the US Open Sectional Qualifying in Japan on May 23.

Youngster Kosuke Suzuki stole the show on the final day with a sizzling 63 to finish a creditable second alongside Hiroshi Iwata (68) and Kaito Onishi (70), echoing the tournament’s objective of enhancing the junior golf development through the competition of the highest level.

New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori was the other amateur who gave his more illustrious professional competitors a run for their money after tying for sixth with last year’s Rikuya Hoshino on 274 following a closing 69.

Meanwhile, three dropped shots over the last five holes put paid to Ben Campbell’s hopes of securing his maiden JGTO title at the Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup on Sunday.

The 29-year-old New Zealander could only muster a two-over-par 72 to settle for tied eight on five-under-par 275 total at the Oarai Golf Club.

While that result marked Campbell’s best outing yet in Japan, he knew he could have done better.

Starting the day as one of the four joint-leaders, Campbell held steady from the get-go as he reeled off 12 straight pars before making his first gain at the 13th to get to eight-under overall for a real shot at victory.

However, just when it mattered most, Campbell was left rueing a costly three-putt at the 14th and dropped two further strokes by double bogeying the 17th.

“I’m very frustrated with the finish. I lost the ball on 17. I thought it was on the fairway, but it actually went left,” lamented Campbell.

“Had a good chance after making birdie on 13 but three-putted 14, and that really killed me.

“I only had about 10 feet there for birdie. To three-putt that really hurts.

“It was a week that could have been, unfortunately.

“But overall, still a positive week. I thought I was feeling rusty coming into this week, which showed a little bit today.”

Thailand’s Itthiphat Buranatanyarat posted his best round of the week of 66 to tie for 11th spot, followed by Steve Lewton, who also saved this best for last with a 65 for joint 13th on 277.

 

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The other non-Japanese top performers in the top 20 included Ajeetesh Sandhu of India (278) in lone 17th and the quartet of Australian Todd Sinnott, Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand and American Berry Henson sharing 18th place on 279.

JGTO/Asian Tour