Joe Ozaki wins Tsuruya Open
BY Bruce Young | Japan Tour | 2005 Tsuruya Open | Wrap | 24 Apr 2005
Naomichi (Joe) Ozaki, today won his first event on the Japan Golf Tour for nearly eighteen months, his second in the last five years, and his 32nd overall when he won the Tsuruya Open by three shots from another veteran Ryoken Kawagishi and Ozaki’s joint overnight leader Paul Sheehan.
Ozaki’s two early birdies today took him ahead by two over Sheehan although that was reduced at the par five 6th when Sheehan birdied. Ozaki moved two ahead again when Sheehan bogeyed the 12th and the lead extended to three when Sheehan took 5 at the par four 14th. A bounce back birdie by the Australian at the 15th saw the difference just two again but when Ozaki birdied the par five 17th to lead by three, it was all but over.
Ozaki’s number of wins in Japan pales in comparison to that of his brother Jumbo’s more than 110, but to a large extent the younger Joe did his bit for Japanese golf by competing in the US when few Japanese were doing so. He played there on a regular basis from 1993 until 2001 retaining his card each year and giving the likes of Shigeki Maruyama, Kaname Yokoo, Toshi Izawa and those who followed, the belief that they too could play and succeed there.
Joe did not win in the US but was second behind Vijay Singh at the 1997 Buick Open, although probably equally good performances were when 6th at the Players Championship and 4th at the Memorial in 1993 when he first played there.
While the two main protagonists over the first fifty four holes were eying each other throughout day four, Ricky Kawagishi charged home with a final round 66 to grab a share of second with Sheehan. But for two bogeys early in his round, Kawagishi may well have challenged for an unlikely victory but the return to the form he showed as an emerging player in the early 1990’s has continued. The 38 year old has recorded eight top twenties in his last nine starts on the Japan Tour, three of those, runner up placings.
Sheehan received ¥8,400,000 or A$100,000 for his share of second and starts his 2005 Japan Golf Tour in earnest after missing the cut at the Token Homemate Cup in his season opening event. Sheehan was fourth on the Japan Tour money list in 2004.
The other Australasians were Craig Jones, 10th after a perhaps disappointing last round 73, Steve Conran 13th, Chris Campbell 24th, David Smail 37th and Anthony Gilligan 48th.
The Japan Golf Tour is now underway in earnest with the next event starting Thursday, the Chunichi Crowns tournament in Nagoya.