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ISPS Handa Championship 2024 Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 22 Apr 2024

There will be a strong home presence as the DP World Tour returns to Japan for the ISPS HANDA Championship, and they are not there to make up the numbers.

Rikuya Hoshino, who won the Qatar Masters in February, and his fellow Japanese star Masahiro Kawamura will be joined by Keita Nakajima, while Matthieu Pavon and Christiaan Bezuidenhout take time off from their PGA Tour schedules to compete at Taiheiyo Club Gotemba.

Hoshino currently sits in second place behind Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai after his win in Qatar and two runner up finishes at the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship this season. His victory in Doha was his eighth professional title following seven wins on the Japan Golf Tour and he is excited to return to Japan during his current run of form.

Hoshino said: "I am very excited to return to Japan as a DP World Tour winner. I’ve had some fantastic experiences travelling the world recently, but playing at home in front of Japanese fans is always special. I enjoyed playing in the first edition of this event last season and look forward to teeing it up at Taiheiyo Club Gotemba with players from both the JGTO and DP World Tour."


(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Kawamura has been a consistent performer on the DP World Tour since earning a card for the 2019 season through qualifying school. He has three previous runner-up finishes and recorded four top 10s last season, as he aims to add to his 2013 Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open title on the Japan Golf Tour.

Kawamura said: "I love having the opportunity to play in Japan, and it would be amazing to get my first DP World Tour win in front of a home crowd and amongst JGTO players. It was inspiring to see Rikuya win recently and I hope to carry on the recent great form shown by Japanese players."

Japanese golf is in a good place right now and the best of the lot could turn out to be former work dumb one amateur Keita Nakajima, who secured his first victory in just his 11th start on the DP World Tour when he completed an impressive wire-to-wire triumph at the Hero Indian Open. The 23-year-old made it the first ever DP World Tour season with multiple winners from Japan, joining Hoshino.

He spent a record 87 weeks at the top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking between 2020 and 2022, and won a number of amateur titles, including the Japanese Amateur and Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in 2021. That same year, he beat a field full of professionals to win the Japan Golf Tour Organisation’s Panasonic Open.

He won three times in Japan in 2023 to top the JGTO’s Order of Merit and confirm his place on the DP World Tour for 2024 and has become the fifth Japanese winner on the DP World Tour, with three victories coming in the past two seasons after Ryo Hisatsune’s Open de France success in 2023.

Pavon became the first French winner on the PGA Tour since 1907 with his victory at the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year, following his debut DP World Tour victory at the Open de Espana in November 2023.

Pavon’s breakthrough victory in the Spanish capital helped him to earn dual membership on the PGA Tour for 2024 after finishing 15th on the Race to Dubai. He made an instant impact, becoming the first dual-ranked member to win on the PGA Tour in the 2024 season and shot to the top of the FedExCup standings. And his world-class form has continued. It is amazing what a victory can do for a player’s confidence.

Pavon said: "I’ve had an amazing few months and I have more exciting experiences to look forward to, including returning to Japan. I am also pleased to confirm that I am becoming an ISPS HANDA ambassador."

The inaugural event 12 months ago was won by Lucas Herbert of Australia, who is now plying his trade with LIV Golf.

He beat Canada's Aaron Cockerill in a play-off that went to a second additional hole as the Australian claimed his third DP World Tour title at the ISPS Handa Championship.

Herbert settled for a final round of 67 after missing a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th and his overall 15 under-par score was matched as Cockerill also made par at the last, despite finding a greenside bunker.

Cockerill's putt on the first extra hole lipped out and Herbert had the edge soon after, even though he sent his tee shot into the trees, recovering to leave himself a putt which secured victory in Japan.

"It's a real honour," Herbert said. "Just to be back in Japan and win as well - I've come here so many times and loved it. To get back here and win, it means a lot.

"I think it's cool to be able to win everywhere and have a lot of good memories from all the spots in the world where you have played."

The Course:

Gotemba is a stunning par 72 that measures 7,246 yards and has been ranked as the best course in Japan. First opened in 1977, it features tree-lined fairways set against a spectacular backdrop. It is well bunkered and there are also several well-placed water hazards.

Form Guide:

Everything has changed for Matthieu Pavon in 2024. Not only did he win the Farmers Insurance Open but he also found himself in contention at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and that form has continued ever since. He is the man to beat.

To Win:

Matthieu Pavon. Playing like a man possessed

Each Way:

Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Wonderful ball striker

Each Way:

Rikuya Hoshino. Hugely impressive

Five to Follow:

Matthieu Pavon. Now a proven winner

Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Starting to make his mark on the PGA Tour

Rikuya Hoshino. Looking to do it for Japan

Masahiro Kawamura. Seeking an overdue DP World Tour win

Keita Nakajima. Could become a world-class golfer

Five Outsiders to Watch:

Nicolas Colsaerts. Crowd favourite

Scott Jamieson. Can go really low 

Joost Luiten. Showing some good signs

Andy Sullivan. Mercurial talent

Eddie Pepperell. Frustrating player

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Tags: Golf Previews european tour dp world tour

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