Ozaki moves into contention

NEWPORT BEACH - Joe Ozaki of Japan played in the first round of the Toshiba Classic Friday not knowing his family’s status after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit his homeland the night before.

He figured they’d be OK because someone would’ve gotten in touch with him if there was trouble.

Ozaki, whose home is in Tokyo, spoke with his wife, Yoshie, Friday night, helping him put his mind at ease. It also helped him make a jump from tied for 15th to tied for third after a second-round best 7-under-par 64 Saturday at Newport Beach Country Club.

Ozaki’s 64 tied three others and put him in contention going into Sunday’s final round, as he’s tied with two-time major champion Mark O’Meara, who grew up in Orange County.

Nick Price, a three-time major winner who matched a Champions Tour record 60 Friday, remains in the lead. He went three under and has a two-shot lead at 14-under, going into the final round.

Mark Wiebe, seeking his first win on the Champions Tour since 2008 and his third victory overall, is in second, two shots back after shooting 65 Saturday.

Ozaki’s bogey-free round on the second shortest course on the Champions Tour (6,584 yards) included seven birdies, five coming on the front nine.

He said he also felt relaxed during his second round because he played with Fuzzy Zoeller. Ozaki, who is 54, said he likes Zoeller’s pace and in the past he had always told Ozaki to relax.

Ozaki, who has yet to win on the Champions Tour, did appear calm. As he should since three of his five best scores on the 50-and-older tour have come at Newport Beach. But the news about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan did concern him a bit.

“He lives in Tokyo, so pretty much kind of far away from the main, damaged city,” said Yasuko Moore, Ozaki’s caddie who interpreted his answers during an interview. “But they felt the shake, movement, so they were really nervous. His wife got so shaky because of the aftershock, too. They kept coming back, the aftershocks. His family got really nervous with the aftershocks.”

Ozaki’s wife called him Friday night. Before that he had no way of getting in touch with his family, including his two sons, ages 20 and 12. He has been away from Tokyo for the past five weeks, but he plans to reunite with them after this tournament ends.

If he can repeat or better his second-round score, he’ll have a chance to take a championship with him. He shot a 64 Saturday because he said he was able to read the greens better and improve on his putting.

Wiebe, who was the first-rounder leader last year, putted just fine, matching his 65 from Friday. He collected seven birdies, three out of his final five holes. He was happy with that considering he finds the poanna greens challenging at Newport Beach.

Price, 54, said he played a conservative round Saturday, finishing with four birdies and a bogey.

“I just need play well enough to win,” said Price, who had a five-shot lead after the first round. “I did the right thing. I’m not trying to set any records.”

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World