Out of the Rough: ISPS Handa Championship (2023)
Updated: Apr 18
Following a near month-long hiatus, the DP World Tour returns with the ISPS Handa Championship to be held at PGM Ishioka Golf Club in Japan.
This is the first time the DP World Tour will compete in Japan for a sanctioned event. This year’s event will be co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation.
The ISPS Handa Championship builds on the recently announced partnership between the DP World Tour, PGA Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation. This partnership will see the top three players from the Japan Golf Tour Organisation Order of Merit earning membership to the DP World Tour each season.
This event will strengthen the long-standing relationship between the ISPS Handa and the DP World Tour.
ISPS Handa is an organization founded by Japanese philanthropist Dr. Haruhisa Handa with the belief that sports have the power to inspire, transform and unite people and communities across social, racial and socio-economic barriers.
The only other time a DP World Tour scheduled event was held on Japanese soil was the Olympic Men’s Golf Competition in 2021 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama.
This event’s inaugural tournament between the DP World Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation was supposed to be co-sanctioned a year ago but due to ongoing travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, the event was sole-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour. The event last year was won by Yuto Katsuragawa.
The field for this inaugural event will be headlined by Rasmus Højgaard and four-time DP World Tour winner Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Spaniard Cabrera Bello is an ISPS Handa ambassador and will seek to improve his recent top five finish in Thailand from earlier this season. Cabrera Bello is a Ryder Cup Player and former Rolex Series winner as he looks for his fifth DP World Tour victory.
Multiple other Ryder Cup hopefuls will be making the trip to Japan such as Robert MacIntyre and Guido Migliozzi. Other notable names include Marcel Siem, Jordan Smith, Lucas Herbert and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Of course there will be a host of young and talented Japanese players competing this week looking for success on their home soil.
Bezuidenhout is arguably the most notable name in this year’s field. He currently splits his time between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
Japan’s most notable player in this year’s field is 30-year-old Shugo Imahira who has seen plenty of success in Japan. Most recently he won the Token Homemate Cup. He will look to establish himself among some of Europe’s biggest names.
There isn’t much to go off in terms of this week’s host venue, PGM Ishioka GC in Omitama, Ibaraki.
It does play as a par-70 measuring at just 7,039 yards. Due to the short length of the course, we can expect to see some low scoring.
PGM Ishioka GC was designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1994. Nicklaus himself described it as the best golf course in Japan.
Although distance off the tee may not be important this week due to the length of the course, the fairways are tree lined and will call for accuracy off the tee.
The course is littered with water hazards and bunkers and along with the trees, will serve as the main defenses this track has to offer.
Water is in play on at least six of the holes this week.
To sum up the course, hitting the fairway and in return, setting up a quality approach shot will be key.
Birdie and even eagles opportunities cannot be left this week as previously mentioned, we should see some rather low scores this week. Limiting three-putts too on the greens will be of the utmost importance.
As of the time of writing this, Thursday seems to be the best day in terms of weather. The sun will be shining with highs in the low 80-degrees. We could see the chance of some wet conditions come Friday with a current 60-percent chance of precipitation hitting the area as the temperature too will fall to a high of 73-degrees. From there, Saturday and Sunday look relatively clear with a 20 and 30-percent chance of perception respectively and highs in the high 60’s.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Birdie or Better Percentage
Sand Saves Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Par 5 Average Scoring
Antoine Rozner (+2700)
Antoine Rozner is routinely a name that pops in my DP World Tour models. Rozner is currently eighth on Tour in bogey avoidance, 16th in sand saves percentage, 28th in SG: APP, 29th in driving accuracy, 32nd in SG: PUT, 35th in three-putt avoidance, 38th in scrambling, 56th in par five average scoring, 71st in birdie or better percentage and 77th in SG: ATG. Rozner has had one of the better season this far as he has four top tens and three top fives. He has a victory on the season at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open back in December. He also placed T3rd at the SDC Championship, T5th at the Thailand Classic and T6th Singapore Classic. His most recent outing was the SDC Championship.
Alexander Bjork (+3300)
Alexander Bjork comes second in our model this week. He is currently fourth on Tour in bogey avoidance, fifth in three-putt avoidance, 19th in all three of SG: APP, scrambling and SG: ATG, 28th in SG: PUTT, 35th in driving accuracy, 50th in par five average scoring, 78th in birdie or better percentage and 111th in sand saves percentage. We’ll hope he doesn’t find himself in too many situations where he’s hitting out of the sand with his above-average approach game. We haven’t seen Bjork since February on the DP World Tour but he had some fantastic results between January and February. His season has been highlighted by a T2nd at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship in early February. He also has gone T16th at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and T28th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. The last time we saw Bjork was at the Thailand Classic in mid-February where he placed T28th.
Joost Luiten (+3300)
Like Rozner, Joost Luiten is another name that continuously pops in our DP World Tour models. He is currently seventh on Tour in bogey avoidance, eighth in scrambling, 15th in SG: PUTT, 19th in both driving accuracy and SG: PUTT, 47th in birdie or better percentage, 52nd in par five average scoring, 71st in SG: ATG and 82nd in SG: APP. Outside of his most recent showing at the Jonsson Workwear Open where he placed T43rd, Luiten had a fantastic run of results. He placed T3rd at the Thailand Classic, third at the Hero Indian Open and T9th at the SDC Championship.
Ashun Wu (+4100)
Ashun Wu actually comes first in our model this week and it’s actually by a decent margin. He is currently 11th on Tour in par five average scoring, 18th in three-putt avoidance, 21st in sand saves percentage, 24th in scrambling, 28th in driving accuracy, 32nd in SG: APP, 41st in SG: PUTT, 43rd in birdie or better percentage and 48th in SG: ATG. In other words, he’s well above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. Wu’s season has been highlighted by a T9th at the Investec South African Open Championship back in December and a T12th at the Singapore Classic in February. The last time we saw Wu was at the Magical Kenya Open where he placed T89th. We’ll hope he can put together his well rounded game this week in Japan and compete into Sunday.