ST. LOUIS (AP) — Kohki Idoki’s eyes welled with tears as he putted for the Senior PGA Championship, and again in the interview room Sunday. Everything about his first appearance in the event, and first trip to the United States, was perfect.
“It is one of the greatest things to win in this game, so I cannot imagine more,” Idoki said Sunday through a translator. “I can’t believe that I am the champion.”
Kenny Perry can’t believe he let another major tournament title slip away.
“Well, it was going good for the first 13 holes or whatever,” Perry said.
Idoki erased a five-stroke deficit against a fading Perry with room to spare, charging to a two-stroke victory at Bellerive Country Club.
It was the third bitter final-round major tournament failure for the 52-year-old Perry, who led by three strokes with six holes to play but settled for a second-place tie with Jay Haas.
Perry spoke briefly after trudging off the 18th green, noting that he’d been “shell shocked” by his crucial double bogey and that he was “in jail the whole time.”
“It didn’t seem like he was sharp from the beginning,” Haas said. “I just don’t think he was as sharp. If he was, he would have been 14 or 15 under, I think, with no problem.”
For the first 12 holes, it appeared to be a two-man contest between Perry and Haas, a two-time champion and hometown favorite from nearby Belleville, Ill. To Haas, the 5-foot-5, 136-pound player from Osaka, Japan, tracking them down was a mystery man.
“I’ve never seen Idoki hit a shot or anything, so I don’t know much about him,” Haas said. “But obviously he’s a hell of a player. A great round, and he did what he had to do.”
The 51-year-old Idoki closed with a 6-under 65 to finish at 11 under and become the first player to win the tournament on his first attempt since Michael Allen in 2009, and the first Asian male to win a senior major tournament.
Idoki led the Japan PGA Tour in driving accuracy for a decade but has just four career victories. He won once on the Japan Senior Tour last year and won two titles on the Japan PGA Tour, in 1990 and ‘93.
Last year, Idoki finished a distant 65th in the Senior British Open after a final round of 81.
Idoki got a beer shower from fellow Japanese players Joe Ozaki and Kiyoshi Murota after finishing ahead of Perry’s final group. Idoki said Osaki, who invited Idoki to accompany him to the tournament, is a mentor.
Idoki wasn’t sure about a title defense, saying “I prefer to just stay in Japan.”
Perry shot a 72, and Haas had a 70. Perry squandered a two-stroke lead with two holes to go in the 2009 Masters and also let victory slip away in the 1996 PGA.
Mark O’Meara was fourth, three strokes back after 65 including an eagle on No. 17. Murota was another shot behind after a 67.
Perry staggered to the finish line, beginning with a double bogey on No. 13 that dropped him into a tie with Idoki. Another bogey on No. 16 dropped him out of the lead he held or shared since the end of the second round and he bogeyed No. 17 after shooting sideways out of deep rough in trees on No. 17.
Perry lost his lead three-putting from the fringe up against the edge of the rough on No. 13, running it past the cup from about 3 feet before holing out to put him at even par for the day.
He arched his back in disappointment after leaving a long birdie putt just short on No. 14.
Idoki climbed into contention with four birdies and no bogeys on the front nine, and added two more birdies in a flawless finish.
Jim Rutledge closed with a 64 for the best round of the tournament. He tied for sixth with fellow Canadian Rod Spittle, Russ Cochran, Kirk Triplett and Duffy Waldorf. Rutledge had seven birdies, five on the front nine, with no bogeys and no long putts to save par.