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Kanaya triumphs; Tabuena bags P1.5M

MUSCAT, Oman — Japan’s Takumi Kanaya secured a convincing victory in the $2 million International Series Oman to record his first professional victory outside of Japan and suggest that the gifted young golfer is coming of age.

The 24-year-old from Hiroshima shot a final round one-under-par 71 to finish on 10 under and beat American Berry Henson (70) and Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana (72) by four strokes.

England’s Steve Lewton (71) finished fourth one shot further back while Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Niemann from Chile, both in with 74s, tied for fifth another two strokes behind.

Meanwhile, Miguel Tabuena closed with a 70 to finish on even par 288 and pocket $28,350 (roughly P1.5 million).

He made six birdies against four bogeys to share 13th spot.

The stunning scenic coastline of Al Mouj Golf provided the perfect background for some brilliant front running golf by Kanaya, already a three-time winner on home soil who has been striving to make his mark on the international stage.

He finally achieved that today with an eye-catching performance in what is the second event of the season on the Asian Tour and first of the year’s International Series tournaments.

“It is an honor to win the event, an International Series tournament,” said Kanaya, after what is also his first win since April of 2021 when he won the Token Homemate Cup, on the Japan Tour.

“It has been a difficult two years but I am so happy to finally win again.”

After taking the lead on day two he was never caught and began today’s round with a one-shot advantage from compatriot Ryo Hisatsune. At the turn, thanks to a fine outward nine bogey free
three-under-par 33, he had opened up a five-shot gap from Hisatsune and appeared to be coasting before he missed short putts on 12 and 13 to see his lead cut to three from playing-partner Sadom.

Despite the wind starting to strength and threatening to play havoc with his push for victory Kanaya then moved four ahead again when he birdied the 15th but dropped a stroke on the next to return to three in front.

The contest was soon virtually settled when he made a birdie on the 16th before Sadom dropped a shot on 17 to give his Japanese opponent a five-shot lead playing 18.

Kanaya could afford the luxury of missing a 10-foot par putt on the last.

Said Kanaya: “Sadom got close, but I played within myself and was able to see it through.”

It is arguably the most important win of his career, which has already seen some significant highs.

He turned professional in 2020 after a glittering amateur career that saw him win the 2015 Japan Amateur, the Asia Pacific Amateur in 2018, and the team gold medal at the Asian Games that year.

He also won the Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters in 2019 as an amateur and was ranked the world’s number amateur for 55 weeks. In 2020 he was victorious in the Dunlop Phoenix tournament.

This was only the third start by Kanaya as a professional in an Asian Tour event, it is his maiden appearance in an International Series tournament, and it also marks the first time that an International Series event has been won by a player from Japan.

In addition, he becomes the first Japanese golfer to win an Asian Tour event outside of Japan since Tetsuji Hiratsuka claimed the Black Mountain Masters in 2010.

For Sadom it was yet another fine tournament which extended a phenomenal run of him having finished in the top 10 on 12 occasions in his last 20 events on the Asian Tour.

If not for costly double bogeys on five and nine it could well have been a different story.

“I started pretty good with three birdies in a row on holes two, three and four, and then the wind came up,” said Sadom, who finished fourth in last week’s Saudi International.

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