UPDATE 3-Golf-Japan's Imada wins Atlanta Classic play-off

Sun May 18, 2008 11:44pm BST

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ATLANTA May 18 (Reuters) - Japan's Ryuji Imada claimed his first PGA Tour victory with a play-off win over Kenny Perry in the Atlanta Classic at the TPC Sugarloaf on Sunday.

After both players finished on 15 under-par -- the Japanese producing a final round of five-under -- they headed out to the par-five 18th for the play-off.

The closest Imada had previously come to a PGA victory was last year's Atlanta tournament which he lost in a play-off to Zach Johnson after he hit water on the 18th.

This time though the water gave Imada victory.

Perry went for the green in two but his approach shot hit a tree to the front right, rolled off the green and into the water.

"I hit a beautiful 3-wood and then hit a beautiful 5-wood," said the defeated Perry.

"I had it hooking in there from right to left and it hit the tree trunk over there and shot it across the green into the water. So what are you going to do?"

Imada was in the rough and having seen Perry's misfortune he opted to lay up and play safe for the par and victory.

"It is an unbelievable feeling to be standing here as a champion," Imada told reporters.

"I had one thing on my mind coming to this week, was to get a win -- and to actually do it is just an unbelievable feeling."

It was cruel luck for Perry after a week in which he had been at or around the top of the leaderboard throughout.

The 31-year-old Imada has been based in the U.S since moving to a golf academy in Florida at the age of 14 and after working his way through college golf, where he played for the University of Georgia and the ranks of the Nationwide Tour, he joined the full PGA Tour in 2005.

It had been a tight leaderboard throughout the four rounds and Colombian Camilo Villegas almost upset many of the week's top performers with a stunning run of birdies in his back nine.

Villegas produced five birdies in his last seven holes for a six under-par 66, finishing 14 under overall -- a shot behind the leading pair.

Jonathan Byrd was 13 under followed by a quartet on 12 under including Parker McLachlin, who had led halfway through the final round but whose round fell apart after an excellent eagle on the par four 13th.

McLachlin's bogeys on 14, 16 and 18 cost him a place in the play-off.

Americans James Driscoll and Justin Bolli also finished on 12 under-par.

(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; editing by Miles Evans)

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