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The Rise of Japanese Golfers: ISPS HANDA CHAMPIONSHIP Preview

Keita Nakajima

Keita Nakajima is set to bring his winning form to the ISPS HANDA – CHAMPIONSHIP, following his recent success on the DP World Tour in India.

This makes him the fifth Japanese golfer to win on the tour, joining the ranks of Ryo Hisatsune and Rikuya Hoshino, who have also claimed victories within the past seven months.

These achievements add to Japan’s rich history in the sport, with Hideki Matsuyama and Isao Aoki paving the way for current players.

Nakajima’s win comes at a significant time as the ISPS HANDA – CHAMPIONSHIP takes place at the scenic Taiheiyo Club Gotemba, located in the foothills of Mount Fuji.

Keita Nakajima: I’m very excited to play in my home country. The game is still good, the same as I felt in India, so I want to play well this week. I’ll do my best. I have practiced every day (leading up to this week). 

Many people congratulated me (on the win in India) and so I was really happy. I’m glad to be back in Japan after claiming my first victory on the DP World Tour. 

I have been training and practicing really well after coming back to Japan and my condition is really good. I’m hoping to be in contention this week in front of the Japanese spectators.

Hideki Matsuyama is a superstar, so every Japanese player wants to catch up to Hideki. That’s why Japanese players are playing well now.

It’s good for me (to see other Japanese players winning). Every Japanese player wants to play on the global stage.

I’m looking forward to this week. I feel a bit of pressure, but it’s fun. It will be a fun week playing in front of Japanese fans.

This picturesque setting offers a home advantage for Nakajima, who is among five players in the field this week sharing the course record.

His familiarity with the course could play a key role in maintaining his winning streak.

Nakajima’s journey to the DP World Tour was built on a solid foundation, having earned his playing rights after topping the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) Order of Merit last season.

As he leads the DP World Tour’s Asian Swing Rankings, he’s focused on earning a spot in a Major tournament.

The top three players in the Rankings after the Volvo China Open next week will gain entry into the upcoming US PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, French golfer Matthieu Pavon is looking to challenge the home favourites.

Pavon, who recently secured dual membership with the PGA TOUR, has had a successful run with debut wins on both the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR.

He’s seeking more victories on the DP World Tour as he prepares for the Olympic Games this summer, where he will represent his country in Paris.

Matthieu Pavon: It’s a country that I have always looked forward to coming to, I had that chance last year, coming back is a pleasure. It’s a beautiful country, very natural. Such great values, people are very respectful. It’s just an awesome week.

I always felt my game was solid, I just had three really big opportunities – the Spanish Open, Dubai and Torrey – and I took them.

That was the first time in my life I had been clutch in a six month period. That can change your life, it’s all about confidence.

I know I am working in the right direction with my team. We are very confident about what we can achieve.

We are working hard and being patient and this is what happened the last six months.

I have always been a guy who plays golf to win tournaments. I think we all do. It’s about trying to do your best and get the trophy on Sunday. I come here with the same mentality and that will never change.  

Since golf came back to the Olympics in 2016, this has been a goal I have chased. I had two of my great friends playing in Tokyo a few years ago and they said how big it is, how fun it is to represent your country in such a big event.

This year, it is played at Le Golf National, I can’t wait to represent my country back home.

Ewen Ferguson, a fellow ISPS HANDA ambassador, draws inspiration from Tiger Woods’ performance at the Taiheiyo Club Gotemba during the 2001 WGC-World Cup.

Ferguson’s first trip to Japan has left a lasting impression, and he joins Pavon and other ISPS HANDA ambassadors, including Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Rafa Cabrera Bello, in promoting the organization’s vision of using sport to bridge social, racial, and socio-economic gaps.

Nakajima, Pavon, and Ferguson’s shared ambition and drive promise to make the ISPS HANDA – CHAMPIONSHIP a compelling tournament to watch, where the spirit of competition aligns with the mission of unity and inspiration through sport.