Shugo Imahira of Japan poses after winning the Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup at Oarai Golf Club, Ibaraki Prefecture on May 15, 2022. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT
Japan’s Shugo Imahira secured a place in the 150th British Open at St Andrews later this year as he profited from a late collapse by compatriot Yuto Katsuragawa to win the Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup on Sunday.
Imahira’s one-stroke victory at Oarai Golf Club in Ibaraki, in the Asian Tour’s first event in Japan since September 2019 because of the pandemic, was enough to secure a third career appearance at Open for the Japan Golf Tour professional.
The 29-year-old first played in the British Open at Royal Troon in 2016 and qualified again for Royal Portrush in 2019, but failed to make the cut on both occasions.
His best result in one of golf’s four majors was tied 44th at the 2020 US Masters.
“The Open was my goal at the start of this season,” Imahira told the Asian Tour website.
“My 172 world ranking isn’t good enough to get me into overseas events, so getting into the Open by winning this week is amazing.”
“The goal was to be a major player rather than a prize winner,” he added.
He started the final day one shot behind a leading pack of current Japan Tour money-leader Katsuragawa, Kaito Onishi, Ryuko Tokimatsu and New Zealander Ben Campbell.
Katsuragawa edged ahead in the final round after birdies on the third and seventh holes but came undone with a double-bogey on the 15th.
A bogey on the 17th then handed the lead to Imahira, who had rattled off three birdies and a bogey to card a final-round two-under-par 68 for an eight under-par total of 272.
Katsuragawa could not recover and finished tied second place with Onishi, Hiroshi Iwata and amateur Kosuke Suzuki, who shot the best final round with a remarkable seven-under-par 63 containing seven birdies and an eagle against a lone bogey.
Imahira had five previous wins on the Japanese tour, who co-sanctioned the event, but third-round leader Onishi was looking for his maiden title after turning professional last year.
“I haven’t really performed well this year, so I’m glad I am able to win early,” said Imahira.
Defending champion Rikuya Hoshino was tied for third with New Zealand amateur Kazuma Kobori.
The Diamond Cup was being held at Oarai Golf Club for the first time since 2013, when 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama claimed the title just months after turning professional.