He may not be the best anymore, but he's still pretty darn good.
42 year old Shingo Katayama won the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters for his 29th Japan Tour title, and first of 2015. The victory moves Katayama out of a tie with the late Teruo Sugihara and alone in 6th on the Japan Tour all time wins standings. He is currently one behind the legendary "Massy" Kuramoto for 5th.
The tournament was shorted to 54 holes after heavy fog stopped play on Sunday.
Katayama dominated the Japan Tour in the 2000's, winning the Japan Tour Money Title five separate times, including three straight in 2004, 2005, and 2006. He was also ranked inside the top 25 in the Official World Rankings, and finished inside the top 5 at the 2001 PGA Championship and 2009 Masters, the latter being the record for the best finish of a Japanese player at Augusta.
After a five year winless span between 2008 and 2013, Katayama has now won a tournament each of the past three years. After struggling for part of this season, Katayama has returned as one of the best golfers on the Japan Tour, notching six top 10's before this victory. He also finished inside the top 10 four times in the last six tournaments prior to this week.
Katayama has consistently been great to end the season. Last year, he won the Casio World Open in his third to last tournament of the season. He has finished inside the top 80 in the world each of the past two seasons. The problem for Katayama, however, is that he does not play any tournaments outside the Japan Tour, which will have several months off between seasons. He also does not begin his seasons well - he missed two cuts in three events to begin the 2015 season. If Katayama wishes to return to the majors and consistently find a place within the top 100 in the world, he will either need to pick up a few events outside the Japan Tour schedule, or he will have to become more consistent at the beginning of the season.
Thanyakon Khrongpha finished in solo second, his highest career finish on the Japan Tour. The 25 year old from Thailand plays on both the Japan and Asian Tours, and though he has three runner up finishes in the Asian Tour, he has yet to find his footing in Japan. Khrongpha has played a bunch globally this season, teeing it up 30 times in different parts of the globe, though he has not found the success he is looking for. He has missed half of his cuts this season, though he made his last three entering this week.
Two time Masters champion Bubba Watson finished in solo third. Watson, who is coming off a T35 in his title defense at the WGC-HSBC Champions, was the first round leader following a 63. He got progressively worse each day, shooting a 69 on Friday and a 71 on Saturday. Katayama, who shot an opening round 64, passed Watson on Friday and padded his lead on Saturday.
Youngster Yuki Inamori was among the players who finished at T4. The 21 year old Inamori, playing in his first full season on the Japan Tour, has now notched four top 10's this season, including a second place finish, while only missing five cuts. Inamori appears to be the next Japanese superstar in the making, and it is only a matter of time before he picks up his first victory.
Also finishing at T4 was Toshinori Muto. Muto, who picked up his sixth Japan Tour victory earlier this season, has struggled with consistency issues. In the past seven weeks, Muto has two top 5 finishes, three more top 25s, but four finishes worse than T40 with two missed cuts.
Among the players finishing at T8 was Koumei Oda. After leading the Japan Tour money list after 2014, where he picked up two victories, Oda has struggled this season. Oda hasn't won at all this season, and has seen his world golf ranking fall from 53rd to 121st. This is Oda's first top 10 in eight starts.
Ryo Ishikawa began the week shooting a 68 and looked to be in good position to challenge for the title, but rounds of 72-70 dropped Ishikawa down the leaderboard. Yuta Ikeda, the second highest ranked Japanese player behind Hideki Matsuyama, was unable to get anything going this week, failing to break par in any of the three rounds. The 90th ranked golfer in the world finished T29.
61 year old Tsuneyuki "Tommy" Nakajima made the cut and finished 65th. Nakajima breaks a string of four straight cuts, and he now has five made cuts on the season. Nakajima is third all time in Japan Tour victories, winning 48 times.