The Asian and Japanese Tours combine this week for the Asian Pacific Open Diamond Cup that may have the longest name in tournament golf in its full form.
A field of primarily local Japanese players will tee it up at an event that was first played in 1969 and features some of Australia’s best performers in the land of the rising sun on the honour roll, so too major winners Hideki Matsuyama and Todd Hamilton.
One of the Japan Golf Association’s four national championships, 2022 sees the tournament renamed the Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup which will be the eighth moniker for the event that returned to the schedule in 2021 after being cancelled due to COVID in 2020.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: In 2021 Rikuya Hoshino claimed his fifth Japanese Tour win, defeating the Philippines Juvic Pagunsan by four shots.
Hoshino reached 13-under-par across four rounds, a score close to the average winning score, his Friday 65 the equal lowest round of the week last year.
RIGHT: Rikuya Hoshino returns to defend his title from 2021 in sparkling form on the Japan Golf Tour. PHOTO: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images.
COURSE: Oarai Golf Club is somewhat unique in the Japanese golfing landscape. Located northeast of Tokyo, Oarai is one of the very seaside course in the country and is among the best courses in all of Japan.
Winds of the Pacific Ocean play a significant role in navigating the layout, despite the par-72 being densely lined with black pine trees.
Designed by legendary architect Seiichi Inoue, Oarai will measure 6,804 yards this week.
PRIZEMONEY: JPY 100,000,000
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Beyond the fact that he is the defending champion, Rikuya Hoshino is in red hot form of late and has reached a career high No.67 on the world rankings in recent weeks.
Tied for seventh in his last start at The Crowns, Hoshino hasn’t missed the top-10 in his last four events, a run that included back-to-back runner-up finishes, suggesting a win is on the cards soon.
The evergreen Brad Kennedy will be hoping to join Thomson, Jones and Marsh as an Aussie winner of this event, and his recent form suggests that is not out of the question.
The Queenslander played six events on the Aussie Tour over the summer, never finishing worse than 25th, Kennedy mixing in good finishes at the Saudi International and since returning to Japan.
An exceptional putter, Kennedy is an eight-time winner around the world and never to be discounted.
The No.1 amateur in the world, Keita Nakajima makes another pro start this week and is worth keeping an eye on not just as a potential star of the future but as a genuine contender for the title.
Nakajima has already won on the Japan Golf Tour and was T7 in his last pro start at The Crowns. A high quality ball striker, the seaside venue and likely winds should suit the soon to be 22-year-old.
Since winning at the start of the year at Rosebud, Todd Sinnott continues to show signs his best golf is on the way back after injuries and COVID robbed the Victorian of some of his prime years.
Sinnott was the 11th last up on the Asian Tour, his power an asset everywhere he plays, so too his underrated short game.
72-HOLE RECORD: 266 (Brandt Jobe, 1995)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Brian Jones (1988, 1987, 1985), Graham Marsh (1982, 1974, 1972), Peter Thomson (1971)
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Brad Kennedy, Todd Sinnott, Jake Higginbottom and Brendan Jones.