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  • Writer's pictureNate (@WeKnowFantasy)

Out of the Rough: ISPS Handa Championship (2024)


The DP World Tour is back in action after a near month-long hiatus with its second visit to Japan for the ISPS Handa Championship.


This is the first action on the DP World tour since the Indian Open in late March.


The DP World Tour will be teeing it up for a sanctioned event on Japanese soil for just the second time, with last year serving as the first of the now inaugural partnership between the DP World Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation.


This event was first planned to be staged in 2022 but due to pending travel restrictions forced on by the pandemic, the inaugural playing of the event was played solely as part of the Japan Golf Tour Organisation.


Prior to the 2023 playing, the ISPS Handa Championship became the first DP World Tour scheduled event to be played on Japanese soil since the Olympic Men's Golf Competition at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama back in 2021.


The first two editions were held at the PGM Ishioka Golf Course but the tournament will switch to the Taiheiyo Club, Gotemba Course.


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 Field

There will be a strong Japanese presence this week looking to claim victory on their home soil.


Most notably, Rikuya Hoshino, winner of the Qatar Masters and second in the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai, leads the charge.


He’ll be joined by Keita Nakajima who won the latest DP World Tour event, the Indian Open, back in late March.


Masahiro Kawamura and Takumi Kanaya are other notable Japanese names teeing it up this week as well. 


ISPS Handa ambassador Matthieu Pavon will be taking a break from the PGA Tour to tee it up in Japan this week. He’ll be joined by fellow PGA Tour player Christiaan Bezuidenhout.


The list of notable names doesn’t end there however as South African legend Ernie Els and multiple-time DP World tour winner Rafa Cabrera-Bello too will be playing this week.


Other notable DP World Tour regulars in this week field include Jordan Smith, Tom McKibbin, Sebastian Soderberg, Yannik Paul, Richard Mansell and Zander Lombard.


Lucas Herbert won the inaugural playing of this event last year but has since joined the LIV Golf Tour and will not be back this year to defend his title.


The Course

Taiheiyo Club Gotemba in Gotemba, Japan will play host this week for the first time.


It plays as a par-72 at 7,262 yards.


It was originally designed by Shunsuke Kato in 1976 but was completely remodeled by Rees Jones and Bryce Swanson in consultation with Hideki Matsuyama in 2018.


It is best described as a hilly, tree-lined parkland golf course that offers many breath-taking views of nearby Mount Fuji.


The course too is well bunkered and there are several well-placed water hazards throughout.


The 2018 renovations saw all of the tee-boxes being rebuilt to increase the length of the course and improve angles. The fairway lines were also changed to provide fairer targets and rewards properly-executed shots.


All of the bunkers were reconstructed to reflect the modern game and multiple run-off areas around the greens were added.


Most of the greenside ponds were also reconfigured to allow for increased shot options and to create more challenging hole locations adjacent to them.


Multiple greens were also removed to allow for more sunlight to improve turf conditions on the greens.


The greens, for the most part, were left untouched. However, the par-three seventh hole’s green was rebuilt as the previous contours were too severe.


Although new to the DP World Tour, this venue hosted the World Cup in 2001 won by South Africa and has been the host of the Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Tour since 1977.


The Weather

As of the time of writing this, there is at least a 30-percent chance of precipitation each day this week. Thursday and Friday currently call for a 30-percent chance and Sunday a 40-percent chance. Saturday currently holds the highest chance of precipitation set at 60-percent. Temperatures will be at the lowest on Saturday at 68-degrees but are set at either 72-or-73 degrees for the other three days. Winds will seem to be a non-factor this week as well, as they are set in the low-to-mid single digits in terms of miles-per-hour each day. If the rain holds off, it could be an ideal four days of Golf.


Key Stats

  • Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)

  • Birdie or Better Percentage

  • Bogey Avoidance

  • Sand Saves Percentage

  • Scrambling

  • SG: OTT / Driving Accuracy

  • Three-Putt Avoidance

  • Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)

  • Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)

  • Par 5 Average Scoring


Betting Card

Jordan Smith (+2000)

Smith brings everything to the table this week that I’m looking for. He’s currently first on Tour in par five average scoring, third in bogey avoidance, 13th in driving accuracy, 14th in SG: OTT, 30th in scrambling, 31st in SG: APP, 35th in birdie or better percentage, 44th in SG: ATG, 63rd in three-putt avoidance, 83rd in sand saves percentage and 99th in SG: PUTT. He’s also in some decent form coming into this week, placing in the top 37 in each of his last three outings, including a T2nd in early March at the Jonsson Workwear Open. Although a different course, he also placed T6th in this event a season ago. Many (much better than I am) cappers have correlated this event to the Irish Open and the K Club. Smith placed T12th in that event a season ago. I’m playing two units on him to win.


Richard Mansell (+3000)

Mansell matches up ideally here statistically. He’s currently fourth on Tour in par five average scoring, sixth in SG: OTT, tenth in both birdie or better percentage and sand saves percentage, 22nd in driving accuracy, 25th in both SG: APP and bogey avoidance, 30th in SG: ATG, 37th in three-putt avoidance and 45th in scrambling. He does fall short putting as he ranks 115th in SG: PUTT. He hasn’t gained strokes putting since the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in January. However, he is in some amazing form. We last saw him at the Porsche Singapore Classic where he placed T11th and he also placed T9th in his two events prior at the Qatar Masters and the Ras Al Khaimah Championship. He lost strokes putting in each of those three events which suggests that if he can find modest success on the greens, he’ll be in contention to win. His worst finish on the entire season was a T25th in seven events as well. He also made the cut at the Irish Open last year and placed T31st in this event last season. I’m playing a unit on him.


Connor Syme (+4500)

Syme’s statistical makeup is a bit of a head scratcher but one I do love this week. He’s currently sixth on Tour in scrambling, seventh in SG: PUTT, eighth in bogey avoidance, 14th in par five average scoring, 24th in birdie or better percentage, 25th in three-putt avoidance, 49th in SG: APP, 78th in sand saves percentage, 79th in driving accuracy, 102nd in SG: ATG and 103rd in SG: OTT. His putting is ideal and his approach is above-average along with the rest that he brings to the table. What really excites me is that Syme placed T7th at the Irish Open at the K Club last year. He’s also in some amazing form coming into this week with three straight top eight finishes in his last three outings. He placed eighth at the Jonsson Workwear Open, T4th at the SDC Championship and T7th at the Magical Kenya Open. I’m playing a unit on him. 


Andy Sullivan (+8000)

Sullivan is currently ninth on Tour in driving accuracy, 12th in scrambling, 16th in sand saves percentage, 20th in three-putt avoidance, 21st in SG: ATG, 26th in birdie or better percentage, 31st in SG: PUTT, 36th in bogey avoidance, 42nd in par five average scoring, 63rd in SG: APP and 84th in SG: OTT. A very solid resume for someone with these odds. He too is in some great form heading into this week too. He placed fourth in his last outing at the Porsche Singapore Classic, T23rd at the Jonsson Workwear Open and T4th at the SDC Championship. I’m playing a unit on him.


Haotong Li (+9000)

My final play this week is Li. He is currently sixth on Tour in SG: APP, 11th in SG: PUTT, 12th in three-putt avoidance, 16th in par five average scoring, 17th in both birdie or better percentage amd scrambling, 21st in bogey avoidance, 35th in SG: OTT, 101st in sand saves percentage, 119th in driving accuracy and 142nd in SG: ATG. His around-the-green work leaves a lot to be desired but he is also an elite scrambler so I can look past that. Li has seen limited action on the DP World Tour this season, appearing in just five events. In his five events though he has placed T7th at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and T16th at the Qatar Masters. I’m playing a unit on him as well.

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