59-Year-Old Aoki Wins Instinet Classic


PRINCETON, N.J. -- Japan's Isao Aoki collected four back-nine birdies en route to a bogey-free 7-under 65 Sunday and the title at The Instinet Classic. He became the third Asian player in as many weeks to win a PGA Tour-sanctioned event as he bettered John Jacobs by four shots.
Aoki took second at last year's U.S. Senior Open but it had been a long time since the 59-year-old visited the winner's circle. His most recent title came at the 1998 BellSouth Senior Classic at Opryland and with the victory Sunday, he captured his ninth title on the elder circuit.
'I'm very happy,' said Aoki, who posted a tournament total of 15-under-par 201. 'I didn't expect this to happen. I knew if I putted well I would have a chance.'
Allen Doyle, the 2001 Senior Tour Player of the Year, and Mike Hill shared third at 9-under-par. For the 63-year-old Hill, this marked his third top-10 finish of the 2002 campaign, one shy of his 2001 total.
Jim Thorpe, the overnight leader, struggled Sunday with five bogeys and two birdies for a 75. He tied for eighth place with Bobby Wadkins at minus-7.
Aoki trailed Thorpe by two at the start of the round but quickly took the lead when he birdied Nos. 1, 3 and 4 and Thorpe took a bogey at the fourth hole.
Jacobs and Aoki shared first until the beginning of the second nine. Jacobs three-putted from 15 feet for a bogey at No. 10 to fall one behind Aoki's lead. Jacobs would not card another birdie the rest of the way until a two-putt birdie at the par-5 18th when the tournament was already decided.
Aoki pulled away from Jacobs and the field starting at the 12th when he drained a six-foot birdie. He made it two in a row with a 10-footer at the 425-yard hole.
Ahead by three, Aoki put the icing on the cake with a kick-in birdie at 16 and a 50-foot birdie at the par-3 17th.
'Every time I participate in a tournament, my aim is to win,' said Aoki, who pocketed $225,000 for the win. 'Any time I play, I try to win.'
'I played good enough to win, I just putted bad,' said Jacobs, who lost a playoff three weeks ago at the season's first major, The Tradition. 'You have to putt well to win a tournament. I could have shot a 5-, 6-under on the front if I putted well.'
Jacobs shot a 2-under 70 Sunday.
Full-field scores from The Instinet Classic