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Gemma Dryburgh Fires Final-Round 65 to claim Japan Classic Title

The 29-year-old Scot beat Kana Nagai by four strokes for her first LPGA Tour title, while overnight leader Momoko Ueda tied for fifth at 12-under 276.

Gemma Dryburgh tees off on the third hole in the final round of the 2022 Japan Classic at Seta Golf Course in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on November 6. (ⒸSANKEI)

Scotland's Gemma Dryburgh fired a bogey-free 7-under par 65 on Sunday, November 6 to win the Japan Classic by four strokes over Kana Nagai for her first LPGA Tour title.

Starting the final round one stroke behind third-round leader Momoko Ueda, Dryburgh had two birdies before the turn at par-72 Seta Golf Course in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, and then caught fire on the back nine.

The LPGA Tour regular birdied the par-4 No. 11 and then had three straight birdies from No. 13 before closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to finish at 20-under 268.

"It has been a dream for a long time and a lot of hard work has gone into this," Dryburgh said. "It means so much as it is a life-changing win. I was nervous, I'm not going to lie, but I was incredibly calm and focused on my breathing."

Dryburgh, who also shot a 65 in the third round, is the first Scot to win on the LPGA Tour since Catriona Matthew in 2011 at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

Nagai offset a lone bogey with eight birdies for a 65 to finish in sole possession of second place at 16-under 272.

 “Since many Japanese played well in the first three days, I tried to play in that mood. But LPGA players finally came up on Sunday,” Nagai told reporters. “I am really impressed that LPGA players played well even on the golf course which they are not used to.”

Ueda Struggles in Final Round

Ueda, bidding for her third Japan Classic title following wins here in 2007 and 2011, got off to a decent start with two birdies in her first four holes but things went south from there.

She bogeyed the par-4 No. 5 and then finished the front nine with a bogey on the ninth hole. Things only got worse after the turn with a double bogey on 11.

Ueda bounced back with a birdie on the par-3 12th hole but another bogey on 14 dashed her hopes of lifting the trophy for a third time. She finished with a last-round 74 and tied for fifth at 12-under 276.

Sweden's Linn Grant shot a 67 to finish alone in third place at 15-under 273, one stroke ahead of Yuna Nishimura (69).

Ayaka Furue, the 2021 champion, shot a 69 to finish in the group tied for fifth that included Ueda and Miyuu Yamashita (72).

Teenager Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, who was recently promoted to world No. 1, finished with a 67 that left her tied for 10th with four other golfers, including American Lila Vu, who had an impressive 66 that featured seven birdies and a lone bogey.

“I always like coming to Japan. It has a lot of memories,” Thitikul said. “And I got world No. 1 here now, my caddie wearing the green bib and the ceremony on the first tee in the first round, so it’s good memories for us.”

The Japan Classic, a tournament celebrating its 50th anniversary, wasn't part of the LPGA's schedule in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions but was contested on the JLPGA Tour.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles here.

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