World number 1 amateur Keita Nakajima is looking forward to playing in the Masters next year after a birdie on the second hole of the playoffs saw him beat Taichi Kho for the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship title
by Keith Jackson
Last updated: 21/06/21 18:32
Keita Nakajima got an invitation to the Masters after beating Taichi Kho to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Dubai.
Nakajima, who was already exempt from the US Open and the 150th Open, punched a 25-foot birdie putt on the extra second hole after he and Kho finished tied on top at 14-under-par.
World number 1 amateurs can now look forward to joining his Japanese compatriot and reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama at Augusta National in April, even as he had to dig deep to bounce back from a bad start to his round. the final.
Three sub-70 scores 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 bad ninth mistake led to a double bogey.
But the 21-year-old reacted with three birdies in five holes, and kept the courage to climb a priceless par after a wild drive at the last to force a playoff with Kho, who made a solo par save on 18 to return. a 65.
The extra first hole was halved in par, but Kho then found water with his approach to green 18 and Nakajima had the luxury of three putts to win, even if he only needed one.
Nakajima had been honored earlier in the week with the Mark H McCormack medal for tops the amateur world rankings, a high position previously held by Matsuyama and Takumi Kanaya.
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“Takumi has become a good friend and mentor to me, and we have played together for the national team for some time,” said Nakajima. “He once told me to ‘confront you and keep challenging.’
“I like him a lot and will try to follow his advice. So I’m excited and very happy to be following Hideki and Takumi. I have three big tournaments next year and I’m looking forward to it. It’s so good. I think it’s an honor to participate. at this event, and I’m so happy to win. It’s a great tournament. I had a great week. “
November 10, 2021, 6:00 am
Kho added: “To be able to face him head-to-head is really an honor. It was really nice to see him play these last two holes, and he’s the best in the world.
“It only motivates me because I feel like I’m not that far away. I feel I have learned a lot in two holes by playing with him and I feel I can bridge the gap.”