Finland’s Kalle Samooja, Zimbabwe’s Kieran Vincent and Japan’s Jinichiro Kozuma survived a pressure-packed 36 holes on Sunday at LIV Golf Promotions to earn entry into the 2024 LIV Golf League.
Samooja produced the lowest score of the marathon final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club at 8 under, fuelled by a morning round of 7-under 65. Vincent and Kozuma each shot 7 under on the day to make a three-man playoff for the final two spots that also included Laurie Canter. Vincent birdied the second playoff hole and Kozuma parred it to join Samooja as LIV Golf’s newest members.
“Once I came here, I knew this was the only thing I wanted to achieve,” said Samooja. “It’s a big step forward in my career.”
“I don’t think the tears are doing it justice,” said an emotional Vincent, who joins older brother Scott as a LIV Golf member. “Obviously watching my brother the whole year, seeing how life-changing it can be, I just hope that this propels my career to a whole new level.”
Vincent was one of LIV Golf’s reserves in 2023, while Kozuma made three starts during the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series. “I wanted to come back again for sure,” Kozuma said, “and to be real now, it’s like a dream.”
The three players emerged from the pack of 73 entrants in LIV Golf’s inaugural Promotions tournament that offers a pathway into the league. Kozuma played all four rounds – with scores reset after each of the first two rounds – while Samooja and Vincent played three rounds after meeting the eligibility criteria for the first-round bye. Twenty players competed in Sunday’s marathon finale, competing for just three spots.
Samooja set the early pace with the morning 65 that put him two shots ahead. But after returning for the afternoon round, he appeared stuck in neutral as the field caught up to him. At various points, four other players had at least a share of the lead, including Vincent, Canter, South African Jaco Ahlers and American Zach Bauchou.
But Samooja delivered the decisive blow at the par-4 17th with a 50-foot birdie putt that he called one of the best in his career. That moved him into a tie for the lead at 7 under, and he then birdied the par-5 18th to avoid the playoff.
In the first play-off hole, Canter had the advantage after reaching the 18th green in two, while Kozuma’s drive bounced into the water on the right side and Vincent had to lay up after finding the rough on the left side. But Canter three-putted and Kozuma produced a clutch fourth shot. All three players parred to extend the playoff under the lights.
In the second play-off hole, Vincent reached the green in two and Kozuma avoided trouble. Canter found the water with his second shot off a tough lie, allowing the other two some breathing room, with. bogey-sixth seeing the Bath man left to rue his costly misses earlier in the day. A place the Asian Tour’s International Series was small reward for his near-miss, although he may yet decide to rejoin the DP World Tour.