TOKYO – Kim Kyung-tae wrote his name into golf’s record books Sunday at the season-ending Golf Nippon Series JT Cup.
With Ryo Ishikawa and Yuta Ikeda’s bids for victory thwarted, 24-year-old Kim became the first Korean to win the Japan Golf Tour Organization money-list title.
265 – Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN) 65-70-64-66
266 – Toru Taniguchi (JPN) 67-71-67-61
268 – Brendan Jones (AUS) 65-72-65-66
269 – Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 66-69-68-66
270 – Kim Kyung-tae (KOR) 66-73-66-65, Yuta Ikeda (JPN) 63-69-71-67
271 – Ryo Ishikawa (JPN) 76-62-69-64, Koumei Oda (JPN) 68-67-68-68
272 – Shigeki Maruyama (JPN) 71-68-66-67
Kim fired a final-round 5-under 65 at Tokyo Yomuiri Country Club, while Ishikawa closed with a 64 and Ikeda a 67. At the end of a season dominated by the trio, Kim and Ikeda tied for fifth at 10-under 270 while Ishikawa was one shot back in equal seventh.
While the main focus centered on the race for the money crown, Hiroyuki Fujita finished the season with a flourish, closing with a 66 (15-under 265 total) for a one-shot triumph over Toru Taniguchi, who soared up the leaderboard with a 61 on Sunday to set the clubhouse lead.
After a bogey at No. 15, overnight-leader Fujita trailed by two shots but he birdied No. 16 and then made an eagle-3 at No. 17 to take the lead for good. A par at the par-3 18th completed the 10th win of the 41-year-old’s JGTO career.
With earnings of about 176 million yen (US$2.1 million) this year, Kim entered the tournament with a 29 million yen lead over Ishikawa, with Ikeda 36 million yen back. But with a 40 million yen (US$476,000) check going to the winner, the Japanese duo remained in the hunt until the back nine Sunday.
In the end, they fell just short and it was Kim who was left to celebrate as only the second non-Japanese national to win the title since the tour was formally launched in 1973. David Ishii, an American of Japanese descent, was the first to accomplish the feat, in 1987.
In 21 starts, Kim won three times, had nine other top-5s and did not miss a cut.
But Ishikawa, the 2009 money champion and a three-time winner this year, and Ikeda, winner of four tournaments in 2010, forced the Korean to not let off until the end.
When Ishikawa birdied five of his first six holes to close on the top spot, there were thoughts of a repeat of his closing 58 at The Crowns in May. But a bogey at No. 7 and a double-bogey at No. 14 ended his title prospects.
Nevertheless, the 19-year-old still managed to end on a high, with birdies at Nos. 16, 17 and 18.
Ikeda matched Ishikawa’s front-nine 30 but then stalled with bogeys at Nos. 11 and 18.
For his part, Kim maintained his composure, making four birdies to keep pace with his rivals and turned in 31 on the front. Two more birdies on the back ultimately proved sufficient.