Kohki Idoki reveled in the moment, soaking in the satisfaction and suds when fellow Japanese golfers gave him a well-deserved beer shower.
Kenny Perry, on the other hand, suffered through another head-shaking finish.
Idoki entered the final round of the Senior PGA Championship on Sunday as an outside threat – at best – and certainly with one of the shorter pre-tournament biographies.
Those he passed while turning a six-stroke deficit with 13 holes to play into a two-stroke, career-defining triumph still weren’t familiar with the unflappable 51-year-old from Osaka, Japan.
”Kenny and I got wrapped up into each other a little bit out there on the front nine, almost a two-man race for a while,” Jay Haas said after he and Perry tied for second. ”And all of a sudden we stepped all in it on the back nine, and a few guys made runs from behind.”
Just one guy, actually.
Idoki closed with a 6-under 65 and finished at 11 under, winning a major tournament on his first trip to the United States. He climbed into contention with four birdies on the front nine and added two more in a flawless finish.
”It is one of the greatest things to win in this game, so I cannot imagine more,” Idoki said through a translator. ”I can’t believe that I am the champion.”
It might not have been good enough had Perry not floundered.
Perry led Haas by two strokes at the start of the round and Idoki by five. He was up three with six holes to go before another major title slipped from his grasp, adding this collapse to the 2009 Masters and 1996 PGA Championship.
Afterward he complained about physical limitations that threw him off. He had knee surgery in February and said it was painful walking the course.
”I’m just thankful that I can play, to tell you the truth,” Perry said. ”I’ve got a bad knee, I struggled with my knee all week. This one don’t hurt nearly as bad as the Masters or the PGA did.”
Haas thought it was a battle all day for Perry, the lone player in the field to break 70 the first three rounds. Perry shot a 72 in the final round.
”I just don’t think he was as sharp,” Haas said. ”If he was, he would have been 14 or 15 under, I think, with no problem.”
This was just the fourth career victory for Idoki, who is the first player to win the tournament on his first attempt since Michael Allen in 2009, and also became the first Asian male to win a major on the senior tour.
He won once on the Japan Senior Tour last year for his first title since 1993. Last year, Idoki finished 65th in the Senior British Open after a final-round 81.
Idoki wasn’t sure about a title defense, saying ”I prefer to just stay in Japan.”
Mark O’Meara was fourth, three strokes back after a 65, including an eagle on No. 17. Kiyoshi Murota, one of the players who gave Idoki the beer shower, was another shot behind after a 67.
Perry staggered to the finish line, beginning with a double bogey on No. 13 that put him into a tie. Another bogey on No. 16 dropped him out of a lead he held or shared since the end of the second round. He then bogeyed No. 17 after shooting sideways out of deep rough in trees.
He three-putted No. 13, starting with a difficult lie from the fringe with the ball up against the edge of the rough, running his bogey effort about 3 feet past the cut before holing out.
After leaving a long birdie putt just short on No. 14, Perry arched his back in disappointment.
Jim Rutledge’s closing 64 was the best round of the tournament and earned a tie 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.
Though not in order, Triplett had rounds of 68, 69, 70 and 71. Bernhard Langer shot 67 for the third straight day after an opening 79 and tied for 13th.