Kalani Simpson

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Coming through
loud and clear

HOW big is Shigeki Maruyama in Japan? Let's put it this way: At one point there were six people interviewing his caddy.

Maruyama, who left the course last night as the leader heading into today's final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii, is the king of the facial expression. The clubhouse leader in animated gestures. He is Mr. Smiley Guy. His laugh gives off a warm, friendly glow.

In short, you just want to hang out with this guy. He's a people person.

He's one of the brightest personalities in golf.

Unfortunately, I don't speak Japanese.

Luckily, that was not an impediment, yesterday, at Waialae Country Club. No, the problem was that I couldn't get close enough to hear what he said anyway, no matter which language he was speaking. There was a throng surrounding him when he came off the course. A throng, I say.

How many? Two score? Four?

OK, maybe not quite that many.

But it was like when the Lakers came to town and there was a mass of microphones and humanity, and I stood on the outside hoping that in the middle of it all, somewhere, Shaq really was in there.

So that was Maruyama, yesterday, after he birdied the last hole for a 68 and the lead heading into today at 10 under.

He was in there somewhere, buried by an adoring swarm.

I'm not sure what he was telling the Japanese press, but apparently he threw a few one-liners in there for good measure.

We laughed.

We scribbled furiously in our notepads.

Most of us wrote what he was actually saying.

Mine says this: "I felt good today. You just have to take it one shot at a time. Wind is wind. It's the same for everybody, so you can't worry about it. It's a tough course, but I'm happy to be here. There are a lot of great golfers in the field, and I know all the guys are going to come out hungry tomorrow; it's still anybody's tournament. I just hope I can come out and be consistent."

Well, you have to admit, it's a pretty good guess.

Luckily, he later had an interpreter. I love interpreters. I would like to be an interpreter. That's my one regret -- that I watched the Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament on TV during Spanish class, rather than becoming fluent. I would love to listen to someone say something long, complicated and serious in a foreign language, then turn to the anxiously awaiting English speakers and say, "He says, 'Go talk to the caddy.' "

At one point Maruyama was telling a riveting anecdote about his hole-in-one eagle on No. 4 -- it was the shot of the tournament -- that included the word "ESPN" (which is Japanese for "ESPN"). And yet the interpreter made no mention of the television network.

Here, it turns out, is what he said: "I knew that was a good ball after I hit the ball, but no one, even me, I wasn't expecting the ball to go into the hole. So I should do more overreacting after the ball went in the hole, but I wasn't expecting it, so that was my disappointment to me, no overreaction (for ESPN)."

You could see why a guy might cut it a word short.

But Maruyama needn't have worried. The shot itself spoke loudly enough, straight and true, plunk. Like the rest of his game, like the rest of his day, it needed no amplification. It needed no interpretation.

Three birdies and a hole-in-one. He pointed and smiled as he walked up 18. You knew what he was thinking. You knew just how he felt.

Later he laughed and he gestured and his eyebrows danced and his head nodded and his smile shined as he told the story of his day.

He was 10 under and in the lead, and that sounds good in any language.

He was asked about Vijay lurking in the wings. Maruyama was respectful, but of course, unworried.

"I just have to play my golf and get my rhythm," he said.

The interpreter relayed it to us a few seconds later, but there was no need.

I was already writing it down.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com

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