MANILA, Philippines - Toru Nakajima buried a pressure-packed 10-foot birdie putt in the playoff, sinking Jay Bayron in his knees and winning the P2.5 million ICTSI Wack Wack Championship in a fitting ending to the 2013 season of the Philippine Golf Tour at Wack Wack’s East Course yesterday.
It was a thrilling victory for the 29-year-old Japanese, who actually wavered in the early going after blowing a two-shot lead but fought back from three strokes down to tie Cassius Casas, who sputtered at the finish for a 73, and Bayron, who rallied with a 72, at 289 after a three-over 75.
Ranged against two of the country’s aces in the playoff, Nakajima didn’t flinch and matched Bayron and Casas’ solid drives on their return stint to the par-4 18th then hacked his approach shot to within 10 feet off the target.
Casas, who missed clinching it outright with bogeys in the last two holes, missed the target to about 20 feet while Bayron, who birdied two of the last six holes to force a three-way tie, hit his own to within three feet, sparking hopes for a follow-up to his playoff off win over Miguel Tabuena at John Hay last April.
But as Casas’ bid fell short, Nakajima made a jaw-dropping putt that felled Bayron, who wilted under pressure and muffed what seemed to be an easy three-footer, enabling the Japanese to snatch the crown and become the first foreign player to win on the five-year circuit.
“I was nervous all day,” said Nakajima, a joint runner-up to Dutch Guido Van der Valk in this year’s Q-School who finished in Top 10 in all his previous three tournaments here.
“I’m just happy I sank that birdie in the playoff,” added Nakajima, who pocketed the top purse of P450,000 staked in this closing leg of the 15-stage circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Casas and Bayron took home P265,000 each from the combined second and third place prizes.
Needing a par to seal the crown in regulation, Casas missed an eight-foot par putt and blew the chance to close out the season in style after topping the last leg at ICTSI Canlubang, also via playoff over Clyde Mondilla.
“I had several chances to win this but I just couldn’t convert on it,” said the 43-year-old Casas in Filipino.
His putt from the fringe on the 72nd kissed the side of the hole before rolling over and his flubbed three-foot birdie putt in the playoff proved to be the most heartbreaking,.