PGA Tour's stop in Japan reaching blockbuster status

Jun Sato/Getty Images

PGA Tour's stop in Japan reaching blockbuster status

PGA Tour

PGA Tour's stop in Japan reaching blockbuster status

By

What’s not to like?

Officials at the headquarters of the PGA Tour could not have envisioned the blockbuster status this week’s inaugural Zozo Championship at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan – the first official Tour event in the Land of the Rising Sun – would achieve so quickly.

Nabbing Tiger Woods alone would have earned a call for champagne.

But the game’s biggest star isn’t the only headliner.

On Monday, the tournament launched with The Challenge: Japan Skins, which pitted Woods, the winner of 15 majors and the latest Masters, against world No. 2 and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, 2015 PGA champion Jason Day and Japan’s biggest star, Hideki Matsuyama, in an 18-hole Skins game for $350,000.

All four are in the Zozo field and will be joined by major champions and past FedEx Cup champions Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, reigning British Open champion Shane Lowry and 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott.

Also playing are Matt Kuchar, Shriners Hospitals for Children champion Kevin Na and young stars Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff. Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen, C.T. Pan and Abraham Ancer – all on the Internationals team for the Presidents Cup – are also in the 78-man field.

Other attractions? While the purse for the Skins game is on the paltry side, the $9.75 million purse for the tournament is not chump change.

There is no cut.

All players will earn FedEx Cup points.

“To play the Asian swing is to face the best fields, and Zozo has a crazy strong field,” said Morikawa, who won last season’s Barracuda Championship in just his sixth PGA Tour start. “You want to be in the fields where the best players are. You just don’t want to be there; you want to prove your worthy of being there and you want to play well.”

Woodland, as well as Spieth, Na, Morikawa and Wolff, are eyeing the Zozo as likely their last chance to catch the eye of Woods, the captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team. Woods has four discretionary picks to make on Nov. 4 to fill out his squad that will face the Internationals in Australia in December.

“I have to prove myself to Tiger. I won the U.S. Open but I have to do some more to earn a spot on the team,” said Woodland, who has played in Japan before in the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament. “I’ve enjoyed my time in Japan. I love playing in front of the fans there. They love their golf. It should be a good week.”

Tiger Woods attends the ‘Tiger Is Back’ workshop at Friends Youth Center on October 19, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Jun Sato/Getty Images

Scott played in the Japan Open Golf Championship the week ahead of the Zozo.  Scott played in three PGA Tour events in the states before leaving for the Asia swing and plans on playing a few more events ahead of the Presidents Cup.

In Las Vegas at the Shriners, Scott said his game was in good form and he wanted to keep playing a packed schedule before the end of 2019 because of two cups – the Presidents Cup and the FedEx Cup.

“I feel like I kind of want to keep the momentum going, maybe don’t have to chase as many (FedEx) points at the start of next year,” he said.

And he always loves going to Japan.

“It’s quite an experience,” Scott said. “The Japanese fans are the most enthusiastic fans in the world. They are going to be so excited to see the PGA Tour stars come and play. It will make a great atmosphere and buzz to play in front of.

“For me, that’s one of the reasons, other than competing, that I love.”

How to watch

Zozo Championship

Wednesday-Thursday, 11 p.m.-3 a.m. ET (Golf Channel); Friday-Saturday, 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. ET (Golf Channel).

Latest

More Golfweek
Home