Tokyo, Japan: Golfing history is being made this week with the staging of the first PGA Tour sanctioned event in Japan.
The PGA Tour Champions’ US$2.5 million Japan Airlines Championship is being held at Narita Golf Club, not far from Tokyo International Airport.
In the build-up to the event, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe welcomed eight PGA Tour Champions players at the Imperial Palace.
Headlining the 63-player field are Billy Andrade, Olin Browne, John Daly, Jay Haas, Tom Lehman, Scott McCarron, Larry Nelson and Tom Watson.
Watson, a two-time winner of the Japan Golf Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix Tournament, said: “I’ve been coming to Japan for many years, as Larry Nelson and many of us have, to play professional golf. We’re very lucky to be able to play a game for a living and compete around the world. Japan is one of our favourite places to come and we’ll be coming back again.”
PGA Tour Champions President Greg McLaughlin said: “We are honoured to welcome Japan Airlines into the PGA Tour family, as we continue to further globalise PGA Tour Champions and the legends of the game for golf fans around the world.
“The Japan Airlines Championship will be an exciting new venture for our Tour and will allow our players and fans to experience the golf-rich culture that is Tokyo.”
Among those watching closely will be Hideki Matsuyama, the number four player in the FedEx Cup standings. At the age of 25 he is having the best season a Japanese player has ever had on the PGA Tour. He has won three times, including two World Golf Championships events, and has three runner-up finishes.
He said: “Of course. I will be watching to see how my fellow Japan Tour players are doing against the world’s top senior pros. Hopefully someday soon Japan can host an official PGA Tour event, too.”