The 41-year-old, who has confirmed he will again venture to New Zealand for the Open from 27 February to 1 March 2020, has just won for the first time in four years. Overall he has now won seven tournaments on the Japan Tour.
Muto was the first of the current group of Japanese players to come to New Zealand, with the 2020 event shaping as his eighth straight visit to Queenstown.
He took out the Panasonic Open Championship at Higashi Hirono Golf Club which this year was co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour and the Asian Tour. It is his seventh Japan Tour career victory and his first on the Asian Tour.
Muto was in hot form for his victory, shooting two rounds of seven-under-par 64 on the weekend to win by four shots and match the biggest winning margin. It was also the lowest 72-hole score in the tournament’s 10-year history.
“It has been four years since I have won which is a really long time,” said Muto. “After opening with two birdies, I started to play a little less aggressive. I felt my swing was loose and if I continued to play that then other players would be able to spot my weakness. “So I decided to just go for the pins and try to make birdies.”
Muto said his long-time caddy helped. “He knows what I am thinking and when my mental game is not there or when I am losing concentration. He kept me focussed.”
Muto was impressive on the back nine to close out a comfortable victory in the NZ$2.2m event, taking home the winners share of NZ$440,000.
A number of regulars at the New Zealand Open finished at the top of the table at the Panasonic Open, including runner-up Shugo Imahira, Jazz Janewattananond, the current Asian Tour money-list leader, and evergreen Australian Brendan Jones.