There are times when a single par becomes more important than all the other good things that you have already done on the golf course.
Thursday’s opening five-under par 66 at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship was one such round for New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori.
The Kiwi who turned 22 on Wednesday, seems to have started from where he left in last week’s Eisenhower Trophy in Abu Dhabi, where a closing 65 helped him become the leading individual at the 2023 World Amateur Team Championship.
Difficult Melbourne Conditions
It was a terrific round from the world No. 26 at Royal Melbourne Golf Course, a tough layout that was baring it’s teeth in the morning as it was lashed by driving rain, swirling wind and biting cold.
Kobori made five birdies, including four in a row from the 10th hole onwards after teeing off from the ninth. He then added another on the 17th, before paring his way from the 18th to the seventh hole.
But it was the closing, par-4 eighth hole that became all-important for him. After a good tee shot on the 435-yard hole, he slightly pulled his second shot with a 5-iron that landed on the mound left of the green and bounced away towards the back of the path near the clubhouse.
On getting his relief, Kobori needed a miracle up-and-down for a par. He hit his third past the hole and then made the seven-footer coming back, which resulted in a lot more celebration than any of his five birdies.
“The lunch would not have tasted good if I did not make that,” said Kobori, winner of the Australian Amateur and the Western Amateur this year, alongside his WATC triumph in Abu Dhabi.
“Obviously, you can’t win the tournament on the first day, but you can kind of knock yourself out of contention pretty quickly. Personally, with the course being so hard, I just wanted to play a bogey‑free round of golf. To have the opportunity to do that, that’s probably what was on my mind more than taking the lead or anything like that. That’s what the fist pumps were all about.
“It was a hell of a round. If you had given me 5‑under at the start of the day I would have taken that in a heartbeat. I’m very happy to finish with a 66.”
Improvements to be made
Kobori said he still left a few shots out there.
“If you had given me a 66 in the morning, I’d have snatched it. But I did miss a few,” said Kobori.
“There was a six-footer birdie putt on the ninth hole (his first), and I missed it and thought ‘Here we go’. Luckily, I dropped a 20-footer on the 10th and that kind of calmed me down. But I did hit it tight on the 15th and sixth holes and could not make those putts.”
One person with a ringside view of the whole round was his playing partner, China’s Bo Jin.
“I thought I played a good round (1-over 72), but then his was so, so impressive. In conditions like that, I don't think he missed a single shot. It was good fun playing with him, seeing such good golf and also it being such a good learning experience,” said Jin, who finished runner-up last year in Thailand.
“That score certainly did not seem possible when we teed off this morning. But hey, we have the best amateurs around the world playing here, so I knew someone was going to still shoot a low number. But to see it come from Kazuma, while playing in the same group, was a pleasure to watch.”