FootJoy player Ryuji Imada claimed his first PGA TOUR victory Sunday, winning the AT&T Classic with a par on the first playoff hole after his opponent hit his approach in the pond fronting the 18th green. It was a complete turnaround from last year at the same tournament when Imada got into a playoff with Zach Johnson at the TPC Sugarloaf, only to lose when he knocked his second shot into the same pond (43 balls found the pond this week). Imada has been a runner-up three times on the PGA TOUR, including earlier this season at the Buick Invitational and the PODS Championship.
Imada, who wore a pair of black Classics Dry Premiere during the final round, needed a birdie on the 72nd hole in regulation just to get in the playoff. Trailing by a stroke, he was right of the green on his second shot with a 3-wood, but chipped up to 4 feet and made the putt for a 5-under 67. Imada averaged 27.25 putts per round this week, the best among all the players.
A native of Japan, Imada had plenty of fans cheering him on at TPC Sugarloaf; he attended the nearby University of Georgia. As he walked off the green after his winning putt, a few fans woofed it up. He's certain to receive another warm welcome when he returns to the area about a year from now...not only to defend his first Tour victory but when he walks to the first tee at Augusta National for the first time.
"I know I get invited to the Masters now," he said, breaking into a big smile. "I always dreamed of playing there since I was a kid. I can't wait to see what it's like."
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