Muto goes wire to wire for Kansai victory


Toshinori Muto became the first golfer this season on the JGTO tour to lead from start to finish on Sunday, when he won the Kansai Open Championship for his fifth career victory.

The 34-year-old carded six birdies against four bogeys for a 2-under-par final round that put him at 18-under 266 for the tournament, finishing one stroke ahead of South Korea’s Kim Hyung Sung, who shot a 67.

Norio Shinozaki, who had been in the hunt from start to finish, was two strokes further back. Yuta Ikeda was all alone in fourth, four strokes behind Muto at Izumigaoka Country Club.

Muto, who hadn’t won since last year’s Dunlop Phoenix, entered the final round in sole possession of the lead for the first time in his career. He started the day with a two stroke lead, was 4 under through 12 holes before three straight bogeys threatened to sink him.

“I’m happy coming from behind and going full out to win,” said Muto. “I had this momentum going in the first half of my round. To continue like that would have been fine, but I became too aggressive. The three bogeys from No. 13 couldn’t really be helped; I hit the ball in places I should have avoided.”

The last bogey left him even with Kim, who was playing in the group ahead of him and had saved par on the last six holes. But Muto was able to regroup nicely.

“The day before I had gone on a roll from No. 15, so I said, ‘This is where I’m going to do it,’ and I bucked myself up,” he said. “I managed a good par on No. 16 and then the birdie on No. 18.”

The victory earned ¥Muto 12 million in prize money.