The interview takes place in November during a pro-am party at the Taiheyo Club in Gotemba. Ozaki, followed by a couple of kobun, enters the clubhouse in his playing outfit—shimmering velour pants and a sweater with colorful geometric shapes—and selects a private room on the second floor. There he sinks into an armchair and lights a cigarette. Clouds of smoke veil the world's most enigmatic golfer.
You begin: "You are a man of many interests...," because, as you understand it, Ozaki-san is something of a Renaissance man. He reads travel books. He collects cars. He plays guitar, sings, collects instruments and hit the pop charts in Japan with three singles in the late '80s. Ozaki is the antipode of his rival, Isao Aoki, Japan's other great touring pro. Aoki knows only golf.
But your information is outdated. Ozaki says that his cars—a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Maserati, three Rolls-Royces—are garaged. That hobby is "finito." So, too, is his music. He says, "I think the guitar is in the attic and food for mice."
What, you ask, are his current interests? Wine and bonsai, he replies. His wine collection consists of "about a thousand bottles" of French wines of good vintage, which he buys by the case, drinking one bottle and saving the rest. More involving, because it requires patience and the hands and soul of an artist, is bonsai—a traditional Japanese discipline in which a gardener shapes dwarf plants to idealized forms.
"Aoki-san looks at golf as his hobby and his work," Ozaki says. "I envy him, in a way, but I know I cannot do that. I need to get away." He crushes his cigarette in an ashtray and lights another. "I have used up a lot of time and money on hobbies."
His interests, then, explain why Ozaki does not move to the U.S. and play the rich Senior tour. He would be giving up his culture, his life, for a succession of hotel rooms. Ozaki nods and continues: "Also, in my generation to be Number 1 in Japan was the major goal. You didn't have Nomo going to the major leagues when I was young. It's unfortunate because I've seen the American tour, the enthusiasm of the galleries and the level of play. It's too bad I wasn't born there so I could feel that same fire in me."
Ozaki sums up. "The Japanese golf world needs me." Needs...Masashi?
He smiles indulgently. No. Japan needs Jumbo—his speed-tribe melding of Elvis, James Dean and Liberace, with the golf peacock Doug Sanders thrown in. "The tournament site is a stage for me. I want to be the sort of person the fans want me to be."
A Bridgestone rep enters the room and whispers in Ozaki's ear. He is needed at the pro-am party. Bows must be taken, egos massaged. Ozaki puts out his cigarette and rises. "If you need more time," he says, "I will come right back."
There's a question still to be asked, but the interview will end if you so much as utter the word yakuza.