ISPS Handa Championship in Japan
After a four-week respite, the DP World Tour begins a two-week stretch in Asia starting with the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan. The tournament was created in 2022, originally intended to be a co-sanctioned European Tour and Japan Golf Tour event. It was to be the first European Tour-sanctioned event to take place in Japan.
However, in February 2022, it was announced that the event would proceed as a sole-sanctioned Japan Golf Tour event because of travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. So this year's event marks its debut on the DP World Tour.
With this tournament being played on the Japan Golf Tour in 2022, most of the DP World Tour regulars have not participated. Rasmus Hojgaard (18-1) returns to competition for the first time in 2 ½ months. He has seen twin brother Nicolai accept a PGA Tour special temporary membership just this past week.
After making seven of 10 cuts on the PGA Tour to start 2023, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (22-1) makes his DP World Tour season debut as he looks to drop in class and earn a victory to move himself up the OWGR rankings and earn spots in the PGA Championship and U.S. Open on ranking points. Lucas Herbert (22-1) is doing the same thing as he is qualified for the PGA but not in either Open field at present.
Jordan Smith (25-1) and Rikuya Hoshino (25-1), who finished runner-up in this event last year and also won on this Ishioka Golf Club course in the Heiwa PGM Championship last October, are next. Fellow DP World Tour regulars Robert MacIntyre and Antoine Rozner follow in the market at 28-1.
Kazuki Higa (40-1) is the highest ranked of a strong home contingent, with other DPWT members Hoshino, Masahiro Kawamura (60-1) and Aguri Iwasaki (125-1) all in attendance.
That home contingent is strengthened by three former world No. 1 amateurs, including Takumi Kanaya (30-1) and Keita Nakajima (35-1), but most exciting currently is Taiga Semikawa (40-1), who picked up his fourth professional victory last week. Other Japanese stars of note include one-time PGA Tour player Ryo Ishikawa (150-1) and eight-time JGTO winner Shugo Imahira (125-1).
The PGM Ishioka Golf Club in Omitama, Japan, hosts this week's event. It is a Jack Nicklaus design that plays as a 7,039-yard par-70.
It is parkland in style with relatively tight fairways lined with mature trees. The course has hosted a number of events on the Japan Golf Tour and the Japanese Challenge Tour.
A regular par-70 setup with just two par-5s, those longer holes measure 544 yards and 576 yards to offer birdie and eagle opportunities to players who can get their drives away. Four sub-400-yard par-4s offer further chances to score, balanced by a couple of holes approaching 500 yards that play as par-5s for the members, however in general this looks like a scoreable track that should reap plenty of red numbers.
2022: Yuto Katsuragawa (-24/260)
Note: Last year's event was on the Japan Golf Tour
Rikuya Hoshino (25-1, DraftKings)
He has won six times on the Japan Golf Tour since 2018.
This week he returns to a golf course where his course figures read 2nd and 1st, with him being the 36-hole leader on the first occasion, when edged out by Yuto Katsuragawa at this event last year. That means he has led on this course after four of his eight rounds played here and never finished outside the top 2. Hoshino’s scoring average is 64.88 round PGM Ishioka Golf Club.
Keita Nakajima (35-1, DraftKings)
Nakajima has been in the top 10 in his last three starts on home soil in Japan.
He was the 36-hole leader on this course last fall before finishing fifth.
Kazuki Higa (40-1, BetRivers)
The six-time Japan Golf Tour winner has been stateside recently, where he struggled in the Texas Open and the Masters, missing the cut in both. However, he finished fourth in his last start on the DPWT in India. Now he is back for a drop in class and comfortable at home.
Higa first displayed his potential at DPWT level when he was 10th in the BMW International Open last year and he’s continued to perform in this company in 2023; finishing 36th at Ras al Khaimah, 11th in Thailand and that fourth in India in his three DPWT starts.
Masahiro Kawamura (60-1, Caesars Sportsbook)
Kawamura was 17th at the Indian Open in February and followed with another runner-up finish, this time behind Jorge Campillo at the Kenya Open on his last start just over a month ago, having carded 43 birdies over those two starts.
It has been a little less than 10 years since his last victory, but he has six runner-up finishes worldwide over the last five years.
Shugo Imahira (125-1, BetMGM)
Imahira won just three weeks ago at the Token Homemate Cup beating Hoshino by two shots.