ANA Open playoff heroics sees Tomoharu Otsuki end title jinx

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Tomoharu Otsuki - TheGolfingHub
Tomoharu Otsuki, a three-time runner-up on JGTO this year, sensationally eagled the first extra hole at the par-four 18th to beat Ryo Ishikawa at the Sapporo Golf Club in Hokkaido. Photo: JGTO

Four times is certainly the charm for Tomoharu Otsuki as he finally returned to winner’s circle after three years when he captured the ANA Open Golf Tournament in stunning fashion on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Otsuki, a three-time runner-up already this year, sensationally eagled the first extra hole at the par-four 18th to beat Ryo Ishikawa at the Sapporo Golf Club in Hokkaido.

Related: De Los Santos’ albatross matches Ikeda’s march

Otsuki had earlier overcome a five-shot deficit by firing six birdies for a flawless closing six-under-par 66 to set up a playoff with Ishikawa after both were tied on 19-under 269 in the regulation play.

Ishikawa, who started the day six shots behind penultimate stage leader Yuta Ikeda, powered to the summit with a brilliant 65 that contained two eagles, three birdies and three bogeys.

Ikeda was left cursing his luck after he could only muster a 72 after carding four birdies against as many bogeys, including a costly shot dropped on the final hole which otherwise could earn him a second shot via the playoff.

The ANA Open victory was extra sweet for Otsuki as he had finished second to Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent last year.

That was one of the six runner-up results since he last clinched the Kansai Open for his second JGTO victory in May 2019.

He also came close to winning at the Golf Nippon Series in 2020 and Vatelin Tokai Classic last year.

This year, Otsuki settled for second-best on three occasions at the Golf Partner Pro-Am, BMW Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup and Shigeo Nagashima Invitational Sega Sammy Cup.

“This win is very special for me as it has been three years since my last win on the JGTO. Finishing second on three occasions including losing in the playoff at the Golf Partner Pro-Am was a bitter pill to swallow. So, holding this trophy today simply means a lot to me,” said Otsuki, who is in his 12th full year as a professional.

Ryuko Tokimatsu and Ryo Hisatsune both carded matching 68s to be tied for fourth on 272, one shot ahead of Justin De Los Santos of the Philippines who finished a creditable joint sixth to emerge as the best-placed international competitor of the week.

After mixing two birdies with two bogeys to turn in 36, De Los Santos staged a strong fightback by birdieing four of his last six holes to mark his third top-10 finish of the season.

“I didn’t feel like I was putting very well this week but overall, I’m really happy with how things turned out,” said Justin.

Australia’s Adam Bland also finished with a flourish, reeling off three straight birdies in the last three holes for a 66 to come in tied-eighth on 274 for his first top 10 finish of the season.

“It was a good round today, I didn’t change anything and just stick to my game plan. I was able to hit it a little closer and holed a couple of putts,” said Bland, who managed seven birdies to offset a bogey.

“Hopefully I can play even better next week (Panasonic Open), I’m looking forward to it.”