Monday, February 12, 2001
The seventh time was the charm for Japanese professional Hidemichi Tanaka.
7 a lucky number
for Pearl winner
By Bill Kwon
After several top-10 finishes at the Pearl Country Club, including third last year, Tanaka finally won the Hawaii Pearl Open on his seventh try, shooting an 8-under 64 yesterday for a one-stroke victory over Greg Meyer.
Tanaka wound up with a 54-hole score of 15-under-par 201. Meyer shot a 65 for a 202 total, as both overtook defending champion Kevin Hayashi, who had taken a six-stroke lead going into the final round.
Hayashi shot a 2-over 74 and finished third at 205.
Both Hayashi and Meyer had won the Pearl Open twice, but it was all Tanaka yesterday, as he racked up seven birdies and an eagle in his closing round.
The victory is not surprising. Tanaka isn't exactly an unknown.
He was the leader going into the final round of the American Express World Golf Championship in Valderrama, Spain, last year. It's a tournament in which Canada's Mike Weir won $1 million and Tiger Woods finished fifth. Tanaka eventually wound up tied for 11th, earning $87,166.
Yesterday's $12,000 first-place money might be chump change for Tanaka. But winning never gets old.
The pivotal hole was the 519-yard, par-5 17th, which plays downwind and is the equivalent of Waialae's patsy par-5 18th for the Sony Open. Tanaka whistled a 6-iron from 196 yards out to within six feet for an eagle, while Meyer three-putted from 70 feet for par.
That proved to be a two-stroke swing that was the difference, according to Meyer, who had a one-shot lead going into the hole.
"Instead of being one-up, now he's one-up," Meyer said.
Meyer missed a six-foot birdie putt at the par-4 18th for a chance to force a playoff. Tanaka put his shot from the right bunker to within two feet and tapped to win.
For Tanaka, it has been a pleasant month of vacationing in Hawaii. Although he missed the cut, he played in the Sony Open and has been spending his time at Wailea, Maui, where he's involved with the Shinwa Golf Co.
"No, we won't him play in the Hilo Invitational (next week)," said Meyer, who is the defending champion.
Meyer was kidding and Tanaka laughed when told what Meyer said through an interpreter.
"He's a good all-around player," said Meyer, who also plays in a number of JPGA events.
Both Meyer and Tanaka played two groups back of Hayashi, who seemingly was headed for his second straight victory with a six-stroke head start.
"I did my math," Meyer said. "I figure Kevin would shoot 4-under so that he'd be 17-under. I knew I had to shoot 10-under or play for second."
Meyer birdied five straight holes from 8 through 12, while Tanaka birdied 9 through 12 to both be at 14-under. Hayashi struggled to a 38 at the turn.
Tanaka's drive hit a coconut tree at 14 and bogeyed to drop one back, but the eagle at 17 more than made up for it.
"My putter was ice cold," said Hayashi, who three-putted the third, fourth and fifth holes and missed another short putt at eight for bogey. But he birdied 14 and 17 to finish third at 11-under by a stroke over Dean Wilson, Jong Duck Kim and Dinesh Chand, all Japan PGA tour pros.
Japan's Yukitoshi Mitsuyama birdied the first playoff hole to beat former Manoa Cup champion Shane Hoshino and win low-amateur honors. Both shot 215 in regulation.