New-look European golf tour to host first event in Japan

Thursday, Nov 25, 2021

TOKYO: The new-look European Tour will make its first foray into the lucrative Japan golf market in 2022 after adding the ISPS Handa Championship to next year’s recently announced schedule.

The rebranded DP World Tour will make Japan the 51st country it has visited — with the tournament to be staged at Ishioka Golf Club in Omitama, north of Tokyo, from April 21-24.

“The DP World Tour is a global tour and, as a result, we relish opportunities such as this to break new ground,” said Keith Pelley, European Tour CEO in a statement released late on Tuesday.

“Asia continues to be an important region for the DP World Tour and our first visit to Japan in April further underlines that,” he added.

Two weeks ago the tour was renamed after investment from new title sponsors DP World, which will see total prize money for next year’s 47 tournaments exceed $200 million.

The ISPS Handa Championship, with a purse of $2 million, will be co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO) and the inaugural event will be the first of a three-year deal.

Japan great Isao Aoki, chairman of the JGTO, said it had been a “long-cherished desire” to host a European Tour event in the golf-mad country and “we can’t wait to hold it”.

The only event on Japanese soil to feature previously on the European Tour schedule was this year’s Olympic men’s tournament at Kasumigaseki Country Club in July, won by American Xander Schauffele.

Golf is massively popular in Japan, with the country seen as a growing market for the world’s top players.

The US PGA Tour made its debut in Japan in 2019 with the inaugural $9.75 million Zozo Championship, memorably won by Tiger Woods for a record-equalling 82nd win on the circuit.

After a year’s absence from Japan because of the Covid-19 pandemic, home hero and US Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama last month won the 2021 Zozo Championship, which had its purse increased to $9.95 million.

The Asian Tour, which will see a series of 10 new events from next season backed by Greg Norman and $200 million of Saudi investment for the next 10 years, is yet to announce its 2022 schedule or whether it will have any of the new events in Japan.

In 2019, before the pandemic shutdown, the Asian Tour staged two $1.5 million tournaments in the country, the Asia-Pacific Open Diamond Cup and the Panasonic Open.