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Idoki Takes Senior PGA Championship
Japan's Kohki Idoki became one of the most surprising winners of a major championship in golf history on Sunday. The 51-year-old, who has never ventured off the Japanese Tour, fired a 6-under 65 to sweep past 54-hole leader Kenny Perry for a two-stroke victory in the Senior PGA Championship at Bellerive Golf Club in St. Louis.
Perry began the final round with a two-stroke lead over his playing partner in the last group, Jay Haas. But neither one of those players could catch Idoki, who posted four birdies on the front nine and two more on the back - with no bogeys - to rally from a five-shot deficit and finish at 11-under 273.
Idoki was playing competitively in the U.S. for the first time. He earned a spot in the Champions Tour major by winning Japanese PGA events and was thrilled with his play on Sunday. "I know America has very strong players," he said through an interpreter. "I just wanted to make the cut." (See below for Idoki's full post-round interview.)
Australia's Peter Senior played with Idoki on the Japan Golf Tour. He wasn't surprised the slight player could pull off such an unlikely victory. "There are very talented players in Japan, but I think it's the first time he's played outside Japan," Senior said of Idoki at greenside. "The States have a bit of aura about (them), so to win here for the first time is exceptional."
The win gives Idoki a spot in the PGA Championship in August at mighty Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., as well as an automatic membership on the Champions Tour.
For Perry, who closed with a 72 and ended up tied for second with Haas at 9-under 275, the result on Sunday was particularly painful. It was the third time he's lost a major title in the final round. He wasted a two-stroke lead in the 2009 Masters and, earlier in the 1996 PGA Championship, the Kentucky native forfeited a one-stroke lead on the 72nd hole when he bogeyed the closing hole at Valhalla in Louisville and lost in a playoff to Mark Brooks.
Finishing fourth was Mark O'Meara, who like Idoki shot a 65, while another stroke back was Idoki's countryman, Kiyoshi Murota (67).
Canadians Jim Rutledge, who carded the low round of the day - a 7-under 64, and Rod Spittle (71) joined Americans Kirk Triplett (68), Duffy Waldorf (69) and Russ Cochran (72) in sixth at 278. Dan Forsman (69) and Senior (71) shared 11th at 279.
Defending champion Roger Chapman had a final round to forget. The 54-year-old from England closed with an 8-over 79 to end up T-64 at 7-over 291. Despite a disappointing tournament, Chapman told reporters he was honored to be the Senior PGA champion for a year. "The year's been fantastic," he said. "The PGA of America looked after me, unbelievably . . . whoever wins today will have the time of their life. It's just a wonderful experience."
The low club pro honors ended up in a tie for the first time since the Senior PGA Championship was first played in 1937. Jeff Coston, a teaching pro at Semiahmoo Golf Resort in Blaine, Wash., carded his second straight 72 to end up at even-par 284 with Mark Mielke (73), the head pro at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, N.Y.
"I made some good friends, met a lot of nice people," said the 57-year-old Coston, who finished as the low club pro in the same event in 2007. "Got to reconnect with some people that I don't see much. There's a lot of great people in golf. So I'm really appreciative of the PGA for the opportunity to play in this event. It's been neat. I played in both the regular and the senior last couple, three years. So it's kind of neat for a broken-down old club pro."
"It was just an awesome week," added Mielke. "It really was. It was so much fun. So much fun. It was just we're like king for a week. We're hanging out with Watson and those guys, I'm in the fitness van with Fred Funk, guys that we watch all the time. So it's kind of cool for us to be able to experience that. It was just really incredible."
For all the scores, visit http://www.pga.com/seniorpga/scoring/leaderboard.
After signing his scorecard, Idoki met with reporters and talked about his improbable victory.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the 74th Senior PGA champion, Kohki Idoki, from Japan. Kohki today shot 6 under par 65 to win the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid by two strokes here at Bellerive Country Club. He will be helped out today with this press conference by an interpreter who will translate the questions. First of all, Kohki, congratulations and tell us how it feels to have won this championship.
KOHKI IDOKI: It's one of the greatest things to become a PGA champion. And I cannot think any more.
MODERATOR: Can you tell us when you thought you had a chance to actually win the championship? Was it one particular shot or on a particular hole where he felt like he had a good chance to win.
KOHKI IDOKI: I don't think to win any more, until the final holes. I believed if I made the 2 putt on the 18th hole that I could win.
MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions.
Q. Is this the greatest thing you have ever done in golf?
KOHKI IDOKI: It is one of the greatest things to win in this game, so I cannot imagine any more. I cannot understand any situation that would be more important.
Q. What will be the reaction in Japan to your win?
KOHKI IDOKI: My performance to make the birdies and that, it's the same as in Japan. And I was surprised to tear up when I was putting for the win. I was surprised also with the huge galleries on the course. I was very excited. Thank you very much.
Q. Could you please talk, if you could, about how you got into golf, how you started the game many years ago, just a little bit about you and how you got into golf. Did you come from a large city, small town? Just anything about your life earlier.
KOHKI IDOKI: When I was nine years old I liked to play golf to look at the neighborhood. I grew up at the country club in Osaka and that's a famous golf course there in Japan. So I wanted to be a professional golfer to look at the poster and the figures, and I respected the professional golfers.
MODERATOR: What were your goals this week? Did you want to make the cut? When did you start thinking about winning?
KOHKI IDOKI: I didn't imagine I would win until the third round. But I continued playing my best all week and I didn't imagine I would win this week. But I can't believe that I am the champion.
Q. What, if anything, did you know about the city of St. Louis before you arrived here this week?
KOHKI IDOKI: Earlier this week, I arrived on Saturday and I did running at the Ritz Carlton and I got to know the area that way. I took some runs and I talked with the local people, and I enjoyed it very much.
MODERATOR: Did you go to any favorite restaurant or do anything special this week?
KOHKI IDOKI: I enjoyed a meal at the Ritz Carlton restaurant. I liked to have a meal in front of the hotel. It's very comfortable to have my dinner outside. I liked it very much.
Q. The embrace with Joe Ozaki after the 18th hole, wonder if you would talk about what that meant to have Joe Ozaki waiting for you after you finished on the 18th.
KOHKI IDOKI: When I got to have eligibility for this championship, Mr. Joe Ozaki invited me to go with him. And every time I asked him about the United States, Mr. Joe Ozaki mentored me for all my golf life when I became a senior. And I respect Mr. Joe Ozaki.
Q. When was this, was this your first trip to the United States? First trip?
KOHKI IDOKI: It is my very first time to visit the United States. I prefer to just stay in Japan.
MODERATOR: Kohki Idoki, the 74th Senior PGA champion. Congratulations.
KOHKI IDOKI: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.