KAWANISHI, HYOGO PREF. – Jumbo Ozaki came within one stroke of matching the best round of his illustrious career on Thursday, when the 66-year-old shot a 9-under-par 62 to seize the first-round lead at the Tsuruya Open.
Ozaki’s last tour victory, his record 94th career title in Japan, came in September 2002 at the ANA Open. He has not made the cut since the Bridgestone Open in October 2011, when he finished in a tie for 58th. It was the first time a competitor shot his age on a regular tour event.
“Shooting my age is not something I try to do, although I want to be able to do something like shoot a 66,” he said. “But if you can’t shoot 6-under or 7-under par when you play good golf, you don’t belong on the tour.”
In his 44th year as a pro, Ozaki put himself in position on Thursday to turn things around big time with five birdies on the front nine and four on the home stretch at the Yamanohara Golf Club. Ozaki moved 10-under par with a 17th-hole eagle before recording his second bogey of the day on the final hole.
“That (eagle) is something that’s possible if I can stroke the ball the way I think I can,” he said. “It was a good tee shot, a good second shot and a good putt. Putting all three together is something to be happy about and I am. The dance I did just sort of happened, too.”
Ozaki settled for a three-stroke lead over five golfers, including second-year tour member Yoshinori Fujimoto, at 6-under-par 65. Hideki Matsuyama, in his second tournament as a pro, had four birdies and two bogies in a 2-under-par 69.
Defending champion Hiroyuki Fujita had three birdies and two bogeys in a round of 70.