2001: Japan smiling as Maruyama enters winner’s circle

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Milwaukee

Shigeki Maruyama’s trademark smile might have grown just a little wider.

Maruyama became the first Japanese player to win a PGA Tour event on the mainland, beating Charles Howell III in a playoff July 15 in the Greater Milwaukee Open.

“Shigeki is a great player,” said Howell, who made bogey on the first playoff hole and then watched Maruyama make birdie. “He’s probably one of the nicest guys out here. He’s always smiling. But now he’s obviously got a reason to smile.”

Howell, who birdied six of the last seven holes in regulation, shot 64 to finish at 18-under 266 and forced a playoff with Maruyama, who closed with a 66.

The finishes were PGA Tour career bests for both players. Howell’s previous best was a third-place finish in the John Deere Classic last year, and Maruyama’s previous best was a second-place tie in the Buick Invitational last year.

Maruyama has won nine international events. Last year, he became the first Japanese player to top $1 million in a PGA Tour season and his $558,000 check Sunday put his season winnings at $1,237,739.

Shortly after breaking through for his first PGA Tour victory, Maruyama was asked if he had any other goals.

“Beat Tiger Woods!” he bellowed, flashing his ever-present smile after imitating Woods’ trademark uppercut and jaw-dropping shout.

– From staff and wire reports

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