Dunlop Phoenix Tournament 2023

Amateur Sugiura makes breakthrough with three-shot win

Amateur Sugiura makes breakthrough with three-shot win


Yuta Sugiura made history at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament by becoming the first-ever amateur champion in the event's landmark 50th edition, and the only seventh amateur winner in JGTO history, on Sunday.

Displaying remarkable composure, the 22-year-old rebounded twice from setbacks in the early and mid-rounds, concluding with an even-par 71 at the Phoenix Country Club.


He secured victory with a three-shot lead over JGTO heavyweights Taiga Semikawa and Keita Nakajima.

This triumph now positions Sugiura among the illustrious winners in the tournament's history, joining the likes of Tiger Woods, Masashi Jumbo Ozaki, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Brooks Koepka, and Hideki Matsuyama.

"I'm really happy. It was a goal I've had for a long time, and I'm truly happy to have achieved it in my last match as an amateur," said Sugiura, who swiftly declared that he was turning professional.

"What makes this victory extra special is that the tournament is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and there were also many foreign stars participating. It's truly a wonderful tournament.


Beginning the day with a four-shot lead, Sugiura maintained his top position throughout, though he encountered a couple of tense moments.


His opening hole saw a bogey, and later, he conceded three shots with a double bogey on the 11th and a bogey on the 12th.

This allowed Semikawa to narrow the deficit to just two shots at that juncture.


However, Sugiura demonstrated unwavering composure, rebounding with birdies on the 16th and 18th holes to secure this remarkable feat with a 12-under 272 total.

"Despite the four-shot difference, but I knew I could be caught up in an instant with a small mistake, so I kept my focus on each shot without letting my guard down," said Sugiura.

Semikawa's closing 66 featuring seven birdies and two bogeys was only good enough to place him in a share of second at nine-under with Nakajima, who shot a 69.


Semikawa was full of praise for Sugiura after the latter followed in his footsteps by winning a JGTO event as an amateur.


However, Semikawa, who secured victories at the Panasonic Open and Japan Open last year, was quick to point out that Sugiura's triumph did not come as a surprise.

"It's remarkable. I can relate to it to some extent. Sugiura had a much higher standing than I did since our student days," said Semikawa.

"Despite my sudden ascent to the title of world amateur ranking first place last year, Sugiura had already established himself as a significantly superior player since his college days. His victory wasn't unexpected."


By sharing ¥60,000,000 with Semikawa due to Sugiura's ineligibility for prize money, Nakajima strengthened his position at the top of the JGTO Money Rankings.


Nakajima, accumulating ¥162,886,179, holds a comfortable lead over second-placed Takumi Kanaya (¥122,548,999), while Semikawa reenters contention by increasing his season tally to ¥110,979,749, securing the third position.

"I want to win next week's tournament and edge closer to the goal (of becoming Prize Money king). I want to approach the tournament with that kind of mindset," said Nakajima.


Australia's Brad Kennedy finished as the highest-placed international competitor after carding a 72, securing a tied fourth position with a total of 277.

Koepka also registered a 72 to share the 15th spot at three-under, while fellow PGA Tour stars Shahith Theegala and Wyndham Clark posted 71 and 70 to be placed tied-31st and tied-37th respecitvely.


Leading final round scores:

272: Yuta Sugiura (am) 64-68-69-71;

275: Taiga Semikawa 70-68-71-66, Keita Nakajima 65-71-70-69

277: Takahiro Hataji 73-69-69-66, Yusaku Miyazato 65-72-72-68, Brad Kennedy (Aus) 70-68-67-72;

278: Taiki Yoshida 67-72-71-68, Yusaku Hosono 68-69-71-70, Kensei Hirata 70-69-69-7-;

279: Ryosuke Kinoshita 69-71-72-67, Yuki Inamori 70-70-71-68, Kazuki Higa 70-66-73-70, Hideki Matsuyama 63-74-71-71.