By Bernie McGuire
Japan’s Takumi Kanaya has brilliantly earned himself a virtual three-year exemption in capturing the inaugural International Series Oman at the Al Mouq course in Muscat.
Kanaya, 24, was in a class of his own over the four days producing scores of 69, 71, 67 and despite a 72nd hole bogey he still won by four shots with a closing 71 in the continuing windy conditions on the course laid out along the Gulf of Oman shoreline.
Kanaya burst onto the world stage as an amateur in January 2019, emerging from the smoke and haze of serious bushfires to the south of Sydney that particular week, in finishing third at the Australian Open, an effort that earned him a place in the 2020 Open Championship.
He returned to Japan and in November that same year Kanaya won as an amateur on the Japan Tour with victory in the prestigious Visa Taiheiyo Masters.
Indeed, he had been the No. 1 ranked amateur for 55 weeks. Kanaya turned pro late in 2020 and quickly celebrated a second ‘home’ Tour win with success in the 2020 Dunlop Phoenix Open, and he made it three Japan Tour trophies winning the 2021 Token Homemate Cup.
Now, after three wins in the Land of the Rising Sun, Kanaya has won in Oman with victory set to lift the current World No. 169 to around No. 117 on the rankings when adjusted Monday am while he earned a virtual three-year Asian Tour exemption winning just in his second event of his new season.
And there is special reason for Irish Golfer Magazine to be thrilled with Kanaya’s success as our own Ronan MacNamara and your author joined Kanaya in Wednesday’s official pre-tournament pro-am
“It was good playing with Ronan, Ben and yourself in the pro-am”, said Kanaya to me in English, and in his quietly-spoken voice.
“It was a very relaxing day and I very much enjoyed everyone’s company, so I am going to give you each the credit in helping me win this week (smiling)”.
American Berry Henson (70) and Thai Sodam Kaewkanjana (72) shared second at six-under at six-under par and one clear of England’s Steve Lewton, who grabbed one of just 17 eagles over the four days on the course in producing a closing 71.
Graeme McDowell was jetting back to his young family in Florida pleased with his efforts over the past two weeks competing on the Asian Tour in the Middle East.
After a closing round 66 for a share of 25th in last fortnight’s Saudi International, McDowell struggled over the weekend rounds with scores of 73 and 74 in the International Series Oman to finish tied 36th.
“It’s been a good two weeks to get the rust out of my game, so pleased to have come over here to Saudi and for a first time here to Oman”, said McDowell.
“I am pleased with how I drove the ball this week, as I didn’t drive it well last week in Saudi so I gave that aspect of my game a lot of attention but then my irons weren’t that good but that’s golf, isn’t it?
“To finish plus four in the conditions we faced over the four rounds is not completely devastating but it should have been a lot better.
“Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting home to see the family as I really don’t like being away from them for more than two weeks. I’ll have the week off and then get ready to head to Mayakoba for the start of the LIV series, so I’m excited about that.”
And McDowell will be returning to the Gulf of Mexico resort in Mexico with fond memories of his PGA Tour triumph on the same course in 2015, and third of four PGA Tour title wins.