Tanihara turns on the style to win Okinawa Open

Tue 21 Dec 2004

Tanihara turns on the style to win Okinawa Open

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Okinawa, Japan, December 21: Japan’s rising son Hideto Tanihara cruised to a comfortable three-stroke victory in the US$910,000 Okinawa Open after shooting a final round three-under-par 69 today.
The 26-year-old Tanihara reinforced his growing credentials as a top player with a cool display at Southern Links Golf Club as the overnight leaders struggled to keep pace. He finished with a four-day total of nine-under-par 279, winning Christmas spending money of $186,000 and a Toyota Prius car worth US$20,000.
Seven players including Asian PGA members Ted Oh, Charlie Wi and Chung Joon, all from Korea, finished a distant equal second on 282. Overnight leader Hiroshi Goda, last year’s runner-up Yusaku Miyazato, Tsuyoshi Yoneyama and Scotsman Simon Yates also shared second place and won US$47,242.
The Okinawa Open, jointly sanctioned by the Asian PGA Tour and Japan Golf Tour, is the opening leg for the 2004 season for both circuits.
It was Tanihara’s second title in Japan this year following his maiden triumph in the Yomiuri Open in the recent season which also saw post seven other top-10s. He was later named Japan’s Rookie of the Year.
“It’s a big surprise that I’ve now won twice in Japan so early in my career. When I started this morning (where he was three off the lead), I never thought of winning this tournament. I kept playing to the centre of the green and when I looked at scoreboard on 15, only then did I realise I was ahead.
“This victory will give me three year exemption in Japan and this will give me the opportunity to play abroad. Winning is certainly a nice present for the New Year,” said Tanihara, who also earned a winner’s exemption on the Asian PGA Tour through to the end of 2006.
With the sun shining brightly over the Southern Links layout after two days of overcast skies and blustery winds, Tanihara charged ahead with six birdies against three bogeys. Crucial birdies on 11, 14 and 15 pulled him clear of the chasing pack.
Korea’s Oh briefly held the joint lead after opening with three straight birdies but he failed to keep his foot on the pedal, dropping shots on the eighth, 10th and 13th. He birdied 11 in a patchy mid-round which resembled yesterday’s card.
“I didn’t realise I was in contention at the turn. At 13, I took the wrong club and tried to hit it too hard and came over the shot and dropped a bogey ... that cost me a lot. I didn’t keep my momentum going after that great start,” said Oh.
Compatriot Wi was delighted to finish joint runner-up as he salvaged his disappointing year where he lost his full playing privileges on the recent European Tour season.
A closing 64 shot Wi up the leaderboard where his card included two early bogeys followed by a brilliant run of 10 birdies over his next 14 holes.
“It’s been a difficult period, so to finish with my best result in 2003 is a good way to wrap up the year. This will give me confidence heading into the new season. I’ve been working hard on my swing with my new coach Jason Floyd and it all came together today,” said Wi, who is a five-time winner on the Asian PGA Tour.
Japanese veteran Jumbo Ozaki, who was two off the lead before the final round, was strongly tipped to challenge for his 113th title on home soil but he stumbled to a 74 and settle for ninth place on 283.
Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, last week’s winner of the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia, Canadian Rick Gibson and Shinichi Yokota shared 10th place.
Leading final round scores
279 - Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 66-76-68-69
282 - Yusaku Miyazato (JPN) 67-75-75-65, Charlie Wi (KOR) 72-73-73-64, Simon Yates (SCO) 68-76-70-68, Ted Oh (KOR) 66-74-71-71, Chung Joon (KOR) 67-73-72-70, Hiroshi Goda (JPN) 65-74-68-75, Tsuyoshi Yoneyama (JPN) 67-73-68-74
283 - Jumbo Ozaki (JPN) 63-79-67-74
284 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 69-73-73-69, Shinichi Yokota (JPN) 71-75-69-69, Rick Gibson (CAN) 73-72-69-70
285 - Hur Suk-ho (KOR) 69-77-71-68, Yasuharu Imano (JPN) 71-73-73-68, Taichi Teshima  JPN)  67-78-70-70, Kiyoshi Murota (JPN) 70-75-69-71, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 71-74-69-71, Tadahiro Takayama (JPN) 69-72-72-72, Shigemasa Higaki (JPN) 69-73-68-75, Hirokazu Kuniyoshi (JPN) 66-73-72-74
286 - Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 68-77-71-70
287 - Hidemasa Hoshino (JPN) 72-70-73-72, Yoshiaki Mano (JPN) 72-69-73-73
288 - Soushi Tajima (JPN) 71-74-72-71, Keiichiro Fukabori (JPN) 68-77-72-71, Jun Kikuchi (JPN) 66-76-73-73, Go Higaki (JPN) 70-76-73-69, Lam Chih Bing (SIN) 65-77-73-73, Katsumune Imai (JPN) 70-73-72-73