World number one amateur Keita Nakajima can look forward to playing in the Masters next year after a birdie on the second hole of the playoffs saw him lead Taichi Kho to the Asian Pacific Amateur Championship title.
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 11/06/21 6:32 pm
Keita Nakajima won an invitation to the Masters after he outpointed Taichi Kho to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Dubai.
Nakajima, who was already exempt for the US Open and the 150th Open, made a 25-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole after he and Kho finished tied for the top at 14 under par.
The amateur world number one can now hope to join fellow Japanese compatriot and defending Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama at Augusta National in April, though he had to dig deep to recover from a poor start to his final round.
Three scores below 70 had given Nakajima a one-shot lead after 54 holes at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, but he found himself in the chasing group after a serious error in the ninth led to a double bogey.
But the 21-year-old fought back with three birdies over five holes, holding back to make invaluable par after a wild push at the last to force a tiebreaker with Kho, who made a clutch save of his own at the 18 to return a 65.
The first extra hole was halved in par, but Kho found water as he approached the 18th green and Nakajima had the luxury of three putts to win, even though he only needed one.
Nakajima had been honored earlier in the week with the Mark H McCormack medal for being at the top of the world amateur rankings, a lofty position previously held by Matsuyama and Takumi Kanaya.
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“Takumi has become a good friend and mentor to me, and we played together in the national team for some time,” Nakajima said. “He once told me to ‘face yourself and keep challenging.’
“I really like that and will try to take your advice. So I’m excited and very happy to follow Hideki and Takumi. I have three major tournaments next year, and I can’t wait. It’s so good. I think it’s an honor to attend. this event and I’m very happy to win. It’s a great tournament. I had a great week. “
November 10, 2021, 6:00 a.m. M.
Kho added: “To be able to go head-to-head with him is a real honor. It was very nice to see him play these last two holes, and he is the best in the world.”
“It just motivates me because I feel like I’m not that far off. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from two holes playing with him, and I feel like I can close the gap.”