Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters 2023

Imahira outplays Yoshida to win Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters

Imahira outplays Yoshida to win Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters

Shugo Imahira held off Taiki Yoshida to win his second JGTO title of the season with a one-shot victory at the Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters on Sunday.

The 31-year-old, who held a two-shot lead overnight, carded an even-par 70 for a 12-under-par total of 268 on the Gotemba Course at the Taiheiyo Club, narrowly edging Yoshida, who shot a 69.

Commencing the day with a two-shot advantage, Imahira made a promising start by birdieing the third and seventh holes, extending his lead to four shots over Yoshida.

However, little did Imahira anticipate that these two birdies would be his only ones for the day. He had to navigate through bogeys on the ninth and 17th holes, ultimately paring the last to secure the ninth win of his career.

Yoshida, Imahira's closest pursuer, kept the fans on the edge of their seats as he gradually narrowed the latter's lead to just one shot after birdieing the 17th.

However, Yoshida could only manage a par on the last hole, failing to force a playoff.

Imahira mentioned that the victory has brought him a great sense of fulfillment, making up for the disappointment at the ACN Championship in August. He led during the penultimate stage but eventually settled for a solo fourth.

"After experiencing regret at ACN, I feel like I've been able to overcome that, so there's a sense of satisfaction," said Imahira.

"Even with a gap, birdies and bogeys can quickly change the situation by two shots, so I thought the gap wasn't a big deal. I was playing to widen the gap, but it ended a bit nervously.

"Looking back, during that moment from the 13th hole, there were thoughts like if I had played differently on certain holes, maybe things would have been different.

"This week, regardless of what happened, I wanted to accept it, and as a result, I managed to avoid major mistakes."

The victory has whetted Imahira's appetite for attempting to win the Money Rankings for the third time, after having previously triumphed in 2018 and 2019.

The win, which earned him ¥40,000,000, propelled him to third on the money list.

"The prize money is substantial, and winning this tournament has brought the Prize Money king title back into the picture," he said.

Yoshida expressed satisfaction with how things unfolded for him, despite narrowly missing his JGTO breakthrough.

Nevertheless, the runner-up finish marked the pinnacle of his career, surpassing his third-place achievement at the Japan PGA Championship last year.

"Losing in a competition is always disappointing. However, considering it's my best finish of the year, I believe it's a positive result for me," said Yoshida.

"I gained a significant amount of confidence this week by competing with exceptional players in this challenging setting."

Leading final round scores:

268: Shugo Imahira 67-66-65-70;

269: Taiki Yoshida 69-63-68-69;

274: Takumi Kanaya 68-69-69-68, Kodai Ichihara 68-69-68-69, Taiga Sugihara 69-71-65-69;

275: Yusa Kosaihira 71-69-70-65, Justin De Los Santos (Phi) 67-69-69-70, Shingo Katayama 70-65-70-70;

276: Terumichi Kakazu 70-73-66-67, Mikumu Horikawa 71-73-65-67, Atomu Shigenaga 72-69-70-65, Ryo Ishikawa 69-72-66-69, Yusaku Hosono 68-69-68-71, Song Young-han (Kor) 68-68-68-72, Tomoyasu Sugiyama 68-71-64-73.