The DP World Tour hosts an event in Japan for the first time this week, with several home stars looking to make their mark at the ISPS HANDA – CHAMPIONSHIP.
It is the first regular tournament in history to be co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, with the PGM Ishioka Golf Club serving as host venue.
A strong continent of Japanese golfers are in the field in Omitama, including seven who are DP World Tour members.
Here, we profile those players as they look to become just the third player from Japan to win a Tour event after Isao Aoki at the European Open in 1983 and Hideki Matsuyama at the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2016, 2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the Masters Tournament in 2021.
We begin our rundown with the leading Japanese golfer on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex. In his eight appearances so far this season, the 29-year-old has registered two top tens including a runner-up finish at the Magical Kenya Open Presented by Absa – his most recent start. Kawamura kept his full playing privileges by finishing 87th on the 2022 season-long rankings, registering three top tens along the way. He earned his debut season on the Tour by progressing through the Qualifying School in 2018. Prior to finishing second in Kenya last month, his previous best finish on the DP World Tour was another runner-up performance at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown in November 2020. His only professional title came in the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open on the Japan Golf Tour in 2013, where he came from a two-shot deficit in the final round to defeat Major champion Y.E. Yang.
Just a place behind Kawamura on the Race to Dubai Rankings is a genuine future star in 20-year-old Hisatsune. He has enjoyed a fine start to his DP World Tour career since securing his card at the final stage of Qualifying School in November. He announced himself with a joint-second-place finish at the season-opening Fortinet Australian PGA Championship later that month before clinching back-to-back top tens in India and Kenya in early March. Those performances mean he is comfortably ranked inside the top 200 on the Official World Golf Ranking. In his eight appearances so far on Tour, he has missed just two cuts and demonstrated his ability to shoot a low score with a 64 as he held the lead after the first round of the Ras Al Khaimah Championship at the start of February.
Another player flying the flag for Japanese golf is Higa. After making his Masters debut on a special invitation earlier this month, the 27-year-old will be looking to bounce back from his missed cut at Augusta National. The week after last year's Masters, Higa won the Kansai Open Golf Championship along with three further wins and finish second in his home open to seal top spot on the Japan Golf Tour Money List and earn his place on the DP World Tour for this season. One of those wins came at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament where he saw off players like two-time PGA TOUR winners Tom Kim and Corey Conners and Mito Pereira. Since then, he has registered an 11th in Thailand and fourth in India on the DP World Tour to come into the week 86th on the Race to Dubai Rankings.
Kanaya won the 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur and made the cut in his Masters debut a year later, including a third-round 68 at Augusta National. He turned professional in October 2020 having long held the top spot on the amateur world rankings. During his time in the amateur rankings, he won his first professional title on the Japan Golf Tour in 2019 and added a second a month after turning pro at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament. The 24-year-old Kanaya has already spent time in the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking, reaching a career 49th as a result of a top ten at last year’s WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play. Since then, he has registered his best finish to date on the DP World Tour at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship with a tie for seventh. In three appearances so far this season, he is yet to miss a cut and has recorded no worse than a tie for 28th.
Hoshino comes into this week’s event with a runner-up finish in his most recent start on the Japan Golf Tour at the Token Homemate Cup and sits third on the money list on his home Tour. In his first start of the 2023 DP World Tour season, he finished tied sixth at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship as he posted three sub-70 rounds. In his ten DP World Tour starts to date, that is his best result. The 26-year-old enjoyed a memorable 2021, playing at The Open, U.S. Open - where he achieved his best Major finish of tied 26th - and a home Olympics alongside Masters Champion Hideki Matsuyama. Since his debut win on the Japan Golf Tour, he has won a further five titles, and will now be looking to transfer that winning record onto the DP World Tour as he looks to climb from his current position of 144th on the Race to Dubai Rankings.
Along with Higo and Hoshino, Iwasaki secured his exemption to play on the DP World Tour this season by finishing as one of the top three players on the Japan Golf Tour Money List (not otherwise exempt) last year. During the campaign, he registered three runner-up finishes and an impressive eight further top tens as he climbed from outside the top 1000 on the world rankings to the cusp of breaking into the top 200. He has made the cut twice in the first four appearances of his career on the DP World Tour, all coming so far this season.
The former World Number One amateur Semikawa made the cut on his DP World Tour debut at the Singapore Classic in February, a month after making his first appearance on the PGA TOUR at the Sony Open. Last year, the 22-year-old became the first amateur to win the Japan Open in its 95-year history, capping off a run of winning three consecutive professional events. He also became the first amateur golfer to win more than once in the same season on the Japan Golf Tour and turned professional at the end of 2022. Now, after making his second DP World Tour start in Thailand, he is set for his third DP World Tour start in front of home fans.