Tokyo, Japan: The PGA Tour and ZOZO, Inc – which operates the largest Japanese online fashion website ‘ZOZOTOWN’ – have announced a six-year agreement that establishes the first annual, official PGA Tour tournament in Japan.
The ZOZO Championship, which will be co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO), is set to debut at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club the week of October 21, 2019, during the opening segment of the 2019-20 PGA Tour FedEx Cup season.
The ZOZO Championship, with a Japan-record purse of US$9.75 million, will become part of the Tour’s swing through Asia, joining THE CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in Korea and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China. The CIMB Classic in Malaysia no longer will be on the PGA Tour schedule, as CIMB is realigning its sponsorship with the Tour.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the first annual, official PGA Tour event to Japan through our partnership with ZOZO, Inc,” said Ty Votaw, PGA Tour Executive Vice President, International. “Japan’s passion for golf is widely recognised and something our stars have experienced first-hand through various events held here and the support of standout PGA Tour players like champion Hideki Matsuyama.
“This announcement further strengthens our presence in Asia and comes at an opportune time with golf set to follow its highly successful return to the Olympics in Rio when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Games.”
Yusaku Maezawa, ZOZO Inc CEO, said: “I’ve been inspired by golf as a player and as a fan for nearly 10 years now. Opportunities such as going on rounds with my 73-year-old father, and practicing with my sons who are now in elementary school, all came from my love for golf.
“ZOZO, Inc has celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and we have launched our private fashion brand ZOZO, which is designed, developed and distributed by us. The concept of the brand is to create the perfect fit for every unique body by using body measurement technology. Just like golf has the power to motivate and connect people all over the world, regardless of nationality, gender, age or body shape, we hope to grow our private brand ZOZO into a brand that is loved all over the world, regardless of big, small, tall or short.
“I am extremely grateful of this miracle of becoming a title sponsor of the historical and prestigious PGA Tour for the very first Japan tournament, and to be able to hold this tournament in Chiba Prefecture, where our roots are.”
The ZOZO Championship field will consist of 78 professionals, including 60 available players from the previous season’s FedEx Cup points list, 10 designated by the JGTO and eight special exemptions.
The PGA Tour, which opened an office in Tokyo in 2016, has a long history in Japan, starting with its involvement in the 1957 World Cup of Golf in Tokyo. After the first three editions of the event took place in Canada and the United States, the tournament was held outside North America for the first time in 1957 when the Kasumigaseki Club (which will host the 2020 Olympic golf competition) saw the US team of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead take the title. Japan subsequently hosted the 1966 and 2001 World Cups.
PGA Tour Champions also has had a presence in Japan, starting with a team event from 1989-91 in which four Champions Tour players competed against counterparts from Japan. The Tour returned in 2017 with a tournament at Narita Golf Club and will return to the club in June, 2019 with the Mastercard Japan Championship.
Every year since 1993, the PGA Tour has had at least one Japanese player on its oster including two for the 2018-19 season: Matsuyama and Satoshi Kodaira. Five players from Japan have accounted for 11 PGA Tour victories over the years, led by Matsuyama with five and Shigeki Maruyama with three. Isao Aoki, Ryuji Imada and Kodaira each have won once.