Ikeda holds off charging Kim for 4th victory

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Yuta Ikeda of Japan

MIYAZAKI, Japan – Yuta Ikeda repelled a dramatic final-day challenge from Kyung-tae Kim to emerge triumphant Sunday at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament.

Three shots clear at the start of the final round, Ikeda closed with a 66 (15-under 269 total), which gave him a two-shot victory over Kim. If it wasn’t for a double bogey at the par-3 17th, Kim may have claimed the title at Phoenix Country Club after posting a best-of-the-week 63 on Sunday.

Inspired by an eagle on No. 2, a 436-yard par 4, Kim completed the front nine at 6-under 30. Additional birdies at 11, 15 and 16 took him within one of Ikeda before faltering on No. 17.

Ikeda suffered his only bogey of the day at the short 11th. But he struck back with birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 before parring his way home.

With his second-place finish, the 24-year-old Korean strengthened his position atop the Japan Golf Tour Money List. With just two events remaining on the 2010 calendar, Kim has 174 million yen (about US$2.8 million) in earnings – about 32 million yen (US$383,027) ahead of Ryo Ishikawa, who could only manage a T-33 finish here.

Thanks to his first-place check of 40 million yen (US$478,783), Ikeda jumped into third place on the money list with almost 133 million yen (about US$1.6 million). For Ikeda, who turns 25 next month, it was the eighth Japan Tour victory of his career and the fourth this season – coming four weeks after defending his title at the Bridgestone Open.

Ikeda also ended a seven-year string of non-Japanese winners in one of JGTO’s flagship events. Since Kaname Yokoo’s success in 2002, the event has been won by Thomas Bjorn (2003), Tiger Woods (2004 and 2005), Padraig Harrington (2006), Ian Poulter (2007), Prayad Marksaeng (2008) and Edoardo Molinari (2009).

Molinari, a member of last month’s triumphant European Ryder Cup team, made a strong title defense, finishing tied for fourth with Robert Karlsson of Sweden at 10-under 274.

American Tom Watson, making a nostalgic return to the venue where he won this tournament in 1980 and 1997, ended T-38 at 288.

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