Golf: 25-1 Jones has the World in his hands.
THE Casio World Open at Ibusuki rounds off the series of three international tournaments in Japan at Ibusuki, but there is so much going on around the world with big-money counter-attractions in Hawaii, Korea and China that stellar names are in short supply, writes Jeremy Chapman.
Colin Montgomerie and Justin Rose have been signed up from Britain, and promising young former amateur talents Hunter Mahan and Charl Schwartzel add some interest, but otherwise this is a pretty normal Japan Tour event.
Rose has played well in Japan before and won the Crowns tournament there two years ago. But much of his American form this year has been a letdown even if he did make the frame three times - fourth at Memorial and in the Canadian Open, fifth in New Orleans.
It is not enough to be super-confident about his chances but he will certainly be trying as he wants to get something out of a blank 2004 and this would definitely be better than nothing. At least his chance is a little more obvious than Monty's, whose success this year revolves almost exclusively around the Ryder Cup and courting a dishy Spanish model.
Monty's weekend effort in the UBS Cup, where he was thrashed by Fred Couples and struggled to win two pairs events with Bernhard Langer in matches which on paper should have been straightforward, was hardly enough to recommend an interest. Although he did win in desperate company China and Macau the last two years, the Scot has never done so in Japan.
Mahan produced two or three efforts in mid-season that suggested he might be a bit special but did not follow them up, while Schwartzel was one of the year's disappointments in Europe after making a strong impression there in his rookie season, 2003.
On this low-scoring course where birdies are there for the plucking, Katsunume Imai sprang a shock 12 months ago with a flawless seven-shot victory over Brendan Jones and Shingo Katayama, but the joint runners-ups are fancied to take their revenge now.
As Jones was also runner-up the previous year in a rain-shortened Casio behind David Smail - the Kiwi is not in such hot form now - and fourth (again tied with Katayama), albeit a distant one, to Kiyoshi Murota in 2002, the Australian is clearly of each-way interest.
Jones has won twice in Japan this campaign and once on the Nationwide Tour in the States, where he played well enough from only a handful of starts to earn a 2005 main-tour ticket.
Katayama is the No. 1 man in Japan thanks to victories in the same Crowns tournament in Nagoya that Rose won two years before and the Woodone Open in Hiroshima. The wins tell only half the story because it is Katayama's consistency - three second places, only twice outside the top ten in 15 starts - that separates him from most of his rivals.
On a course where he has finished 2-10-4-4 the last four years, the ever-beaming 31-year-old looks nailed-on for another big showing, though this is one tournament he has yet to win.
Big-hitting Ricky Kawagishi must not be overlooked. He once made a short appearance in the World Match Play at Wentworth, losing in round one to Chip Beck in 1990. On Sunday he emerged as Tiger's closest challenger, albeit at an eight-shot distance, for his second runner-up spot in four tournaments, and ran fifth at Ibusuki in 1997 and 2000.
As Kawagishi, 36, also showed up well in the other field where there was a strong international entry, the Taiheiyo Masters (13th), and boasts finishes of 11-2-13-13-2 in five of his last six starts, Ricky is on a roll.
1pt each-way 25-1 (Betfred, Stan James, Stanley)
1pt each-way 40-1 (Blue Square)
1pt 14-1 (general)
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Nov 24, 2004|
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