If anyone knew what Kenny Perry felt like Monday morning it was Ryuji Imada.
A year ago Monday, Imada got to spend the day thinking and re-thinking his final hole of the AT&T Classic. How his approach came up short, and wet, in a hazard by the No. 18 green.
The stroke cost him in a playoff loss to Masters champion Zach Johnson.
This Monday, Imada got to smile. Perry got to think about approach shots in the water.
Imada, a Georgia grad, redeemed himself for last year's loss for his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday, a year after falling one-shot short.
"I'm just going to cherish this one and know I'm going to try to do my best in two weeks at Memorial," Imada said after his win on Sunday. "But nobody can take this one away from me."
Imada earned it.
He started the day two shots back of Perry and three of leader Charles Howell III. And with a 12:05 p.m. tee time, Imada got to set the pace, firing out with a 5-under 67, dropping him to 15 under for the tournament. Howell faded, shooting a 2-over 74 and Perry, just like his 6 under score in Day 1's pouring rain, never quit. He finished the day 2 under, despite missing a birdie putt on 18 that would have given him the win, to force a playoff with the awaiting Imada.
"Played good coming in," Perry said. "I made some good birdies coming in to get the lead. Somebody always plays better. It's tough to win out here."
No one knows that more than Imada, who overcame the early rain and a five-shot deficit after the first round, not to mention his experience in last year's playoff.
"I never really believed in destiny, but I'm starting to believe it," Imada said. "I don't know what to say. I just love this place. I feel very comfortable on the golf course. I feel like I can play very well out here.
"And, you know, even starting (Sunday) I was three shots off the lead and I didn't quite get off to a very good start, but I knew if I would just stick with it I would have a chance."
And the win gives Imada more chances. Not just this year, but next year, in his adopted home state.
"I'm going to get an invitation to The Masters, which I have always dreamed about playing there since I was a kid," the Japanese-born Imada said. "So I can't wait 'til next year and see what it's like next year at The Masters."
SideBar: Edstrom finishes strong after some Saturday struggles
After walking off No. 18 on Saturday, it would have been easy for Reid Edstrom to pack it in.
He had just taken a nine and shot a 12-over 84 and was solidly in last place in the AT&T Classic field. But even with an early tee-time and a back nine start due to the threat of rain, the Norcross native showed up focused on Sunday to shoot an even-par 72. He still finished the tournament at the bottom of the leaderboard, but minus Saturday's disastrous round he played the TPC at Sugarloaf to 1 under par.
Not bad for a Monday qualifier not expected to make the weekend.
And now he returns to his rookie season on the Nationwide Tour, with a bit more experience and some tangible proof that he can play on the PGA Tour.
After all, to reach the weekend he out played Players Championship runner-up Paul Goydos, David Duval, Notah Begay and Greg Norman.
He also picked up a pretty good check for the week - $10,340.
- From staff reports