Japan will stage its first official PGA Tour event in October 2019, the US$9.75 million Zozo Championship, taking over the slot vacated by the CIMB Classic.
A press release issued by the PGA Tour yesterday stated that the “CIMB Classic in Malaysia no longer will be on the PGA Tour schedule, as CIMB is realigning its sponsorship with the tour”.
The tournament is title-sponsored by Zozo, Inc. – which operates the largest Japanese online fashion website ‘Zozotown’ – in a six-year agreement and will be co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO). It will be staged at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba on October 24-27, during the opening segment of the 2019-20 PGA Tour FedExCup season.
The tournament will form part of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing, joining The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in Korea and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China.
“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 recognized 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. Today’s announcement further strengthens our presence in Asia and certainly 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.”
“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,” said Yusaku Maezawa, Zozo Inc. CEO. “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.
“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 of 78 will be made up of 60 available players from the previous season’s FedExCup 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 at Kasumigaseki Club (venue for the 2020 Olympic golf competition) when the US team of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead took 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 senior 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 roster including two for the 2018-19 season in Hideki Matsuyama and Satoshi Kodaira. Five players have accounted for 11 victories over the years, led by Matsuyama with five and Shigeki Maruyama with three. Isao Aoki, Ryuji Imada and Kodaira each have won once.