Kazuki Higa continued his red-hot form when he captured his fourth JGTO title this year with a three-shot victory at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on Sunday- one that has edged him closer than ever to JGTO Money Rankings honour of the 2022 season.
Facing a power-packed leaderboard featuring two charging PGA Tour stars Mito Pereira of Chile and Tom Kim of South Korea on the final day, Higa kept his nerves in check to fire a glorious seven-under-par 64 at Phoenix Country Club to clinch the sixth JGTO win of his career.
Starting the day with a two-shot cushion over Pereira and Tomoharu Otsuki, Higa's position at the top was never in doubt as he sparkled with a bogey-free round containing an eagle and five birdies to finish 21-under for the tournament.
World number 46 Pereira mixed seven birdies with a bogey en route to a closing 65, but still finished three shots shy of Higa.
Otsuki, chasing his second win of the season, came in lone third on 17-under following a 66, one ahead of a group of players in tied fourth comprising Kim and Satoshi Kodaira, who closed with matching 64s and Taihei Shimizu (65).
Zimbabwe's Scott Vincent was again consistent as he always did with a superb final round 65 landing him in seventh place on 14-under. It was his fourth top-10 finish in seven appearances this season, but he did win the Mizuno Open to become the only non-Japanese winner this year.
Higa was over the moon after picking up a ¥40,000,000 cheque to bring his season earnings to ¥179,141,233, stretching the lead over second-placed Rikuya Hoshino (¥104,890,457) with just two tournaments left in the schedule.
"I was aiming for 20-under or lower this week, I'm so glad that I did just that and was rewarded with a victory," said Higa.
"My ball-striking and putting were both excellent this week, I would say they're my best this year.
"Winning the money rankings has been a dream of mine since I was young. With today's win, I'll get there very soon. Achieving this feat is a big thing for me."
Pereira commended Higa for his victory as he savoured his trip to Japan.
"Higa was playing really well, it was a splendid performance. He's hitting so straight and accurately," said Pereira.
"I played with him for two days, I must say that he's a really good player. He deserved to win the championship.
"I really enjoyed competing here this week. It's always fun to play in front of Japanese galleries because everyone is so polite and gives us a warm round of applause for each shot."
World number 15 Kim echoed Pereira's sentiment as he pledged to make another trip to Japan in near future, not just to compete, but for the famed Miyazaki beef!
"When you're playing behind huge galleries, it's always fun. The fans applauded all my good shots, I really enjoyed that." he said.
"I would like to try to win in Japan as I have never done that before. I look forward to having another opportunity to do so in the future.
"The Miyazaki beef was delicious. I think I have gained some weight this week, but it's fine because it's simply irresistible!"
Leading final round scores:
(Japan unless stated)
263 - Kazuki Higa 69-65-65-64;
266 - Mito Pereira (Chi) 65-69-67-65;
267 - Tomoharu Otsuki 70-63-68-66;
268 - Satoshi Kodaira 68-68-68-64, Tom Kim (Kor) 68-66-70-64, Taisei Shimizu 67-74-62-65;
270 - Scott Vincent (Zim) 69-67-69-65;
271 - Mikumu Horikawa 69-67-69-66, Rikuya Hoshino 66-70-69-66, Taihei Sato 65-68-68-70.