Nakajima stamps mark in India to continue shine on Japan golf

Keita NakajimaoNew Delhi: Japanese players have been making their presence felt on the global golfing map and Keita Nakajima is the latest JGTO star to stamp his mark and shine the spotlight on Japan golf again.

Nakajima became the latest JGTO player to excel on the international stage when he won the Hero Indian Open for his maiden DP World Tour title at DLF Golf and Country Club in New Delhi on Sunday.

And the 23-year-old did so in emphatic fashion, carding rounds of 65, 65, 68, and 73 to clinch a wire-to-wire victory with a 17-under 271 total, four shots clear of his closest competitors - Veer Ahlawat of India, Sweden's Sebastian Soderberg, and American Johannes Veerman.

Remarkably, Nakajima achieved this breakthrough in only his sixth DP World Tour start of the season and 11th overall.

This season marks Nakajima's full-time debut as a competitor on the European circuit, where he holds Category 17 membership.

This privilege is awarded to the JGTO money list winner as part of the strategic alliance between the two major tours.

Despite boasting four previous JGTO victories, including three achieved last year as a rookie professional, Nakajima was so euphoric about his latest achievement that he likened Sunday's triumph to experiencing his "first professional win."

"It feels amazing. I feel like this is the first win of a new professional career. This is my first year playing on the DP World Tour and I'm very proud to have won on the DP World Tour and very honoured to be playing here," said Nakajima.

"The win definitely gives me a lot of confidence in myself and I'm hoping now to take what I did this week and turn it into even more wins in the future."

Now that he's secured a DP World Tour victory, Nakajima will be eager to leverage his two-year full exemption as he aims to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Ryo Hisatsune towards the PGA Tour.

The DP World Tour grants promotion to the PGA Tour for its top 10 finishers of the season.

“I want to try and finish on the top ten on this tour and then go to the PGA Tour in 2025,” he vowed.

From the JGTO perspective, the past six months have been truly remarkable, with three Japanese golfers claiming victory on the DP World Tour since Hisatsune's triumph at the French Open last September.

Before Hisatsune's win, only two Japanese players had ever conquered the European flagship circuit. Isao Aoki was the first, achieving this feat at the 1983 Panasonic European Open.
The second victory came 33 years later, courtesy of Hideki Matsuyama's triumph at the 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

Recently, Rikuya Hoshino joined this illustrious club by winning the Qatar Masters last month, and now, Nakajima has followed suit.

The Japanese presence has been strongly felt internationally since the start of this year, with Hideki Matsuyama and Takahiro Hataji both securing victories on the PGA Tour and Asian Tour, respectively.

This further reinforces Japan's presence and success on the global golfing stage.

Matsuyama captured his ninth PGA Tour title by emerging victorious at the Genesis Invitational last month, while Hataji clinched his first-ever professional victory at the New Zealand Open, a tournament jointly sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia.