Colin Montgomerie made all the putts he needed on Narita Golf Club’s huge greens Sunday to win the JAPAN AIRLINES Championship — the first PGA TOUR Champions event in Japan.
Colin two-putted for par from 50 feet on the par-4 18th, hitting his first to 1 1/2 feet, for a 5-under 67 and a one-stroke victory over Billy Mayfair and second-round leader Scott McCarron.
“A number of us wanted to win this inaugural JAPAN AIRLINES Championship,” Montgomerie said. “I wasn’t the only one. I think a little bit of nerves got in the way. The greens were perfect. You felt like you should be 5 or 6 under, but it’s not that easy.”
Montgomerie finished at 14-under 202 and earned $400,000 for his fifth victory on PGA TOUR Champions and first in nearly a year. He won 31 times on the European Tour and topped that tour’s money list a record eight times — seven in a row from 1993-99 and the last in 2005.
Mayfair, playing two groups ahead of Montgomerie, settled for a 66 after missing a 6-foot birdie try on 18 on the left edge. McCarron, tied with Bernhard Langer for the PGA TOUR Champions victory lead with four after winning three of the previous six events, birdied the final two holes for a 71.
Montgomerie ran in a 60-footer on the par-4 13th in the middle of a three-hole birdie spree, and made two key 6-foot putts — the first for par on the par-3 16th and the second for birdie on the par-5 17th to break a tie for the lead with Mayfair.
Montgomerie birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine — also holing putts of 20 feet on No. 10, 15 feet on No. 12, and 14 feet on No. 14 — after playing the first nine in even par with a bogey and a birdie.
“Patience is key, even in a three-round event,” Montgomerie said. “You think it’s more of a sprint than a marathon, but you have to be patient. It’s vital in this game.”
The Hall of Famer will be in Canada next week for his title defense in the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship in Victoria, British Columbia. His first three PGA TOUR Champions victories came in majors — the 2014 and 2015 Senior PGA Championship and 2014 U.S. Senior Open.
Glen Day was fourth at 12 under after a 67. Kevin Sutherland, a stroke back entering the round, had a 72 to drop into a tie for fifth with Jesper Parnevik (67) at 11 under.
Massy Kuramoto topped the six Japanese players in the field at 10 under after a 67.
Players raved about the first-year event and were already looking forward to returning in 2018.
“The people here have just been absolutely fantastic,” McCarron said. “I can’t even say enough how nice everybody’s been. The people that don’t speak English try to speak English or they’ll teach us some Japanese. We went out last night to sushi and we were just having a blast with everybody back there, we’re laughing and giggling about what to eat. Everyone’s just been wonderful. The volunteers were fantastic all week. This golf course was in the best shape I think we’ve played all year long and anybody who didn’t come really missed out.”
By The Associated Press