NAHA – Kenichi Kuboya was the benefactor of a stunning late meltdown by Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines on Sunday, posting a one-stroke victory to capture the Japan Open for his first win of the season.
With Pagunsan still out on the course, Kuboya was preparing to go home after he wrapped up the third major of the season with a 70 that included a chip in for eagle on the 10th hole at the par-71 Naha Golf Club in Okinawa Prefecture.
But Pagunsan double bogeyed the 17th and then bogeyed the 18th to put the title on a plate for Kuboya, who narrowly missed out on victory last year after losing to South Korea’s Bae Sang Moon in a playoff.
The victory was the sixth of Kuboya’s career and his second major title after the 2002 Japan PGA Championship. Along with the eagle, he made three birdies and four bogeys to finish at 8 over.
“I was really surprised when I heard what had happened,” said Kuboya. “I was all set to go home and I was told that I couldn’t and had to wait. I didn’t think the leader would get into trouble at the end like that.”
“At a tournament like the Japan Open, I am not the kind of player that gets on the greens and racks up birdies. I am more the kind of player that is patient, and that suits this kind of difficult setting,” added the 40-year-old. “Do things really turn out as good as this? I guess you just never know.”
Pagunsan was not the only player to endure a nightmare finish to the tournament. Tetsuji Hiratsuka started the day two strokes clear but had to be content with third at 10-over after a disastrous 78.
China’s Wu Ashun tied for fourth at 12 over with Yusaku Miyazato and South Korea’s Kim Do Hoon.