Ikemura finishes T2 as Jones ends four-year title drought with NZ Open win

Ikemura finishes T2 as Jones ends four-year title drought with NZ Open win

Tomoyo Ikemura secured his best international outing in five years when he finished joint runner-up at the New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport on Sunday.


The 27-year-old shot a five-under-par 66 to finish three shots behind Australia's Brendan Jones, who overcame a four-shot overnight deficit to end a four-year wait on his career 19th title.

The 48-year-old Jones, who began the day tied for fourth, left it late as he staged a back-nine charge that included four birdies in his closing seven holes to wrap up the week at the Millbrook Golf Resort on 18-under-par 266.


The three others who joined Ikemura in tied second on 15-under-par overall were Australia's John Lyras (64), New Zealander Ben Campbell (66) and South Korea's Jaewoong Eom (67).


Penultimate stage leader Shae Wools-Cobb of Australia, who held a two-shot advantage overnight, closed with a disastrous seven-over-par 78 for 274 total to slip to a share of 26th.


For Ikemura, the result marked his best yet since finishing tied second at the 2018 Myanmar Open.


Ikemura, who won last year's ASO Iizuka Challenged Tournament for his second JGTO victory, found himself in the running for the title after firing an eagle on the par-five 10th to move to 15-under.


However, he was left rueing a costly bogey on the 13th and although he managed to redeem the shot back on the 15th, it did little to help his cause as Jones was also too hot to stop in the closing stretch.


"I went to the second half thinking I had the chance to win. But it turned out to be a problem as I paid the price for being too eager," said Ikemura.


"The bogey on 13 was a result of my poor judgement. It was frustrating because I was playing it solid all day.


"But it was a positive week nonetheless, I felt good with my game this week and I hope to continue the same momentum at International Series Thailand next week.


"I want to do my best there as it's my goal to also earn a card on the Asian Tour.


"I needed a good ahead of the Japan Tour season-opener, and I manage that this week. Now, I can look forward to starting the season with confidence."


Jones could not hide his delight after adding the New Zealand Open crown to his long list of accolades.


Jones, regarded as one of the most successful foreign players in the Japan Golf Tour history with 15 titles to his name, said: "This is just incredible, I’ve been supporting this event for many years and I’ve’ always said to myself as long as my bum is pointing to the ground, I’ll never win it," said Jones.


“I don’t know what to think. When you are out there playing you aren’t thinking about winning, you are just thinking about playing. I hit a lot of good shots through the middle of the round, made some clutch par saves on a few of the holes coming in."


Terumichi Kakazu, who was just three shots off the pace after the third day, failed to mount a strong challenge when it mattered most as he could only muster a 72 to settle for tied-12th on 13-under-par 271.


"The biggest regret was I kept making the same shot mistakes and not rectifying them," he lamented.


"I will return next year to make amends!"


How the JGTO members fared:

266: Brendan Jones 69-69-62-66 (winner);

269: Tomoyo Ikemura 65-70-66-68 (T2);

271: Terumichi Kakazu 67-66-66-72 (T12);

273: Ren Yonezawa 70-67-68-68 (T22);

274: Yosuke Asaji 65-71-70-68 (T26);

276: Mikumu Horikaa 70-68-69-69, Jinichiro Kozuma 67-68-71-70, Ryosuke Kinoshita 68-67-68-73 (T35);

277: Mikiya Akutsu 68-67-71-71 (T44);

278: Todd Baek 68-7072-68 (T50).