Leading Japanese golfer Kazuki Higa has praised the vision of host Dr Haruhisa Handa for bringing the first DP World Tour tournament to their homeland.
Having recently realised a lifelong dream to play at the Masters at Augusta National, Higa said the chance to meet the world on a course in Japan was an exciting prospect.
The biggest stars of the Japan Golf Tour will join players from around the globe when the ISPS HANDA Championship Japan tees off on Thursday at the PGM Ishioka Golf Club, north-east of Tokyo.
Dr Handa’s drive has helped create the first DP World Tour event in Japan with the co-sanctioning of the Japan Golf Tour Organisation.
Higa, ranked No.87 in the world, has been playing the season on the DP World Tour courtesy of finishing top of the Japan Golf Tour money list last year.
“Last year, Dr Handa asked how I would feel if there was a co-sanctioned event with the DP World Tour. I told him it would be great if we could have more chances of going up in the official (world) ranking,” Higa explained.
“I am so glad to have it this year.”
Higa hasn’t played a tournament in his homeland since last December and his familiarity with the course and the daily routines of Japan has him in a positive mood.
“Every course is a new course for me on the DP World Tour so I feel some disadvantage. I know this golf course, I know the grass here, so it will be an advantage for me and I’m focussed.”
(He missed the cut after rounds of 72-70. He drove the ball well in his second round but never hit enough greens to make it count)
Higa missed the cut at the Masters with his rounds of 76-74 but 2023 will continue to be a breakout year with a spot in the majors at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in May and The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July.
Dr Handa’s commitment to the power of sport opening up new opportunities and breaking down cultural barriers is woven into this historic tournament first in Japan.
Higa sees it himself: “We don’t have many chances to play the European players. That’s why this is a good opportunity for all of the Japanese players.
“If they play well in this tournament they get to play on the DP World Tour. It means they get to represent the JGTO so they want to show good performances and prove the level in Japan.”
South Africa’s multiple major winner Ernie Els, Scotland’s left-handed Robert MacIntyre, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, Australia’s Lucas Herbert and South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout are amongst the internationals in the field.
Blue skies greeted the golfers out early for Wednesday’s pro-am on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. It plays as a Par 72 for members but is set up as a Par 70 for tournament play.