Qualifier Osanai’s win a rarity on Japan Tour

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Mamo Osanai claimed a shock playoff win in his first tournament appearance of the season.

CHITOSE, Japan – Mamo Osanai held his nerves in check to become the first Monday qualifier to go on to win on the Japan Golf Tour in six years.

Making his first tournament appearance of the year, Osanai outlasted fellow-Japanese Shunsuke Sonoda and Korean Cho Min-gyu in a playoff to emerge victorious in the 130 million yen (about US$1.5 million) Nagashima Shigeo Invitational Sega Sammy Cup.

Three shots off the pace in joint fourth overnight, Osanai closed with a bogey-free 3-under-par 69 at the North Country Golf Club’s 7,115-yard layout.

That gave him a 72-hole aggregate of 13-under 275 – a total matched by rookie Sonoda and Cho, who signed for rounds of 68 and 70, respectively.

The 40-year-old Osanai prevailed with a par at the fourth extra hole after Cho three-putted for bogey. Sonoda was eliminated at the second playoff hole.

Osanai, who recorded the last of his three previous JGTO wins in 2006, said: “It’s just unbelievable. Since I lost my exemption status, I’ve recognized the value of being able to play in tour events. I never thought I could win in my first tournament of the season.’’

Sidelined for much of the past 18 months with an elbow injury, Osanai admitted he’d considered retiring from the game. “I couldn’t make tournament appearances, so I just stayed home and watched a lot of Korean TV drama DVDs because I had nothing else to do,’’ he said.

The last Monday qualifier to win on the tour was Makoto Inoue in 2004. Only three other players have won after earning spots through Monday qualifying.

One shot away from joining the playoff were overnight leader Tetsuji Hiratsuka and Kim Kyung-tae. Hiratsuka closed with a 1-over 73, including 17 pars and a solitary bogey, while Kim was left to rue his only blemishes at the 15th and 17th as he carded a 72.

World No. 52 Ryo Ishikawa could manage only a final-round 73 to drop into a tie for 28th place at 283. He charged up the leaderboard with a 3-under 33 on the front nine but took 40 coming home, including a double-bogey 7 at the long 13th andbogeys at 17 and 18.

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