Idoki emerges as unlikely champion of Senior PGA

News-DemocratMay 27, 2013 

— Known as the Japanese Professional Golf Association's most accurate player off the tee for a decade, Kohki Idoki showed the world Sunday that he's also pretty good on the green.

Five shots out of the lead entering the final round of the Senior PGA Championship, the 51-year-old Idoki sank almost every putt he struck as he fired a 6-under-par 65 to rally past Kenny Perry and Belleville native Jay Haas for a two-stroke win at Bellerive Country Club.

The win is the first on the Senior PGA Tour for Idoki, who was still having trouble believing he had won a major championship before a large and enthusiastic crowd at Bellerive.

"It's one of the greatest things to become a PGA champion and I can not think any more,'' Idoki said through an interpreter.

"I didn't imagine I would win until the third round. But I continued playing my best all week. I didn't imagine I would win. I can't believe that I am the champion."

A native of Hyogo, Japan and a two-time winner on the Japanese PGA Tour, Idoki finished with a 72-hole total of 11-under-par 273, two strokes better than both Perry and Haas.

Perry, the third-round leader, held the lead by himself until making double bogey on the par-3 13th hole to fall into a tie with Idoki at 10 under.

Idoki, playing three groups in front of Haas and Perry, then took the lead for good with a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 17 to get to 11 under.

Perry, who finished the day with a 72, then saw his chances end for good with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17.

Both Perry and Haas, who shot a 1-under 70, finished at 9-under 275.

Former Masters champion Mark O'Meara also shot a 65, to finish at 8-under 276, while another player from Japan, Kiyoshi Murota, was alone in fifth at 7-under 277.

Five players including Kirk Triplett, Duffy Waldorf and Russ Cochran tied for sixth at 6-under 278.

Idoki becomes the seventh player to win the Senior PGA championship in his first attempt.

But through 12 holes, it appeared the title was heading to Kentucky with Perry, who was maintaining his two-shot lead over Haas.

But with the biggest win of his career in sight, and perhaps a little too amped-up, Perry hit his 6-iron on the par-3 13th hole over the green and made double bogey.

It was the beginning of the end for Perry, who three holes later made the first of consecutive bogeys on the par-3 16th hole.

"I had 190 on that hole (13). I hit with a 6-iron and it just flew the whole green. I couldn't believe it went that far for one thing,'' Perry said. "To make double bogey on a hole you think you can make birdie, that hurt.

"Then on 16, I, don't know. The adrenaline was pumping too fast and I hit it into the back bunker with a 7-iron. I looked up and I was two down and when I made bogey on 17, that pretty much ended my day.''

Haas, with a large group of friends, family and fans -- including his uncle and former Masters champion Bob Goalby -- cheering him every step of the way, also was in contention until midway through the back nine.

Eight-under-par starting the day, Haas got to 10 under with birdies on Nos. 2 and 4. After dropping a stroke on the sixth hole, Haas got it back with a great birdie on the demanding par-4 ninth, as he made the turn in 2-under 34.

But a poor tee-shot on No. 11 led to a bogey and two more bogeys followed on holes 14 and 16 to end Haas' hopes.

"I hit just a terrible tee shot on 11. I was going to hit 6-iron, but Tommy (his caddie) suggested 7-iron. He thought it was playing fast," Haas said. "The tee was up and I wasn't driving it good enough to really think about hitting driver there.

"It was the right club off the tee, for sure. I just blocked it over to the right and kind of had a little jumper lie in the rough and just hit through the green. Looking back at it, I wish I would have made that bogey being aggressive.''

The top five finish at Bellerive was the second straight for Haas, who tied for third at the 2004 U.S. Senior Open which was won by Peter Jacobsen.

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