All eyes will be on newly minted professional, Takumi Kanaya, when he competes in the star-studded ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD from October 22-25, 2020 and seeks to emulate the success of Hideki Matsuyama on the PGA TOUR.
The 22-year-old Kanaya, ranked No. 1 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking and winner of the 2020 McCormack Medal, joined the play-for-pay ranks last week and will be amongst eight Japanese golfers in the US$8 million ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.
The talented youngster will compete against the likes of defending champion Tiger Woods, reigning FedExCup winner Dustin Johnson, World No. 2 Jon Rahm and 18-time PGA TOUR champion Rory McIlroy, who placed tied third in the inaugural ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan last October.
Apart from Matsuyama, who is a five-time PGA TOUR winner and exempted through his 2019-20 FedExCup ranking, other Japanese golfers gaining entry into the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP through the Japan Golf Tour include two-time Japan Golf Tour No. 1 Shugo Imahira, Rikuya Hoshino, Mikumu Horikawa, Naoki Sekito and Ryo Ishikawa, a 17-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour and a former PGA TOUR regular. Satoshi Kadoira, a one-time PGA TOUR champion, will also feature in the tournament via a sponsor’s exemption.
Thai duo Jazz Jane Wattanananond and Gunn Charoenkul, South Africa’s Shaun Norris and American Chan Kim round up the exemptions from the Japan Golf Tour, which is a co-sanction partner of the event.
Kanaya’s career rise has closely mirrored Matsuyama’s ascension in the world of golf. Both players attended Tohoku Fukushi University and won the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship – Matsuyama in 2010 and 2011 and Kanaya in 2018.
Interestingly, Matsuyama won the Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters in 2011 as an amateur which Kanaya achieved the feat last November with an eagle on the 72nd hole.
“I’m extremely grateful for the invitation to participate in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP,” said Kanaya.
“I’d like to first express my sincere gratitude to the organizers and all the people involved in making this tournament possible during such a difficult time. I am very honored to have such a valuable opportunity to play immediately after turning professional. I look forward to competing in such a strong field and will do my best to play well and stay competitive,” added Kanaya, whose amateur accolades include runner-up finishes in the 2018 Asian Games and individual category of the 2018 World Amateur Team Championships and making the halfway cut at the Masters Tournament last year.
Ishikawa, once dubbed the Bashful Prince for his dashing good looks and youthful exuberance, is undoubtedly one of Japan’s leading stars with 17 career wins. He featured on the PGA TOUR for several seasons before a back injury cut short his stint in 2017.
In 151 career starts on TOUR to date, the 29-year-old enjoyed 11 top-10s including two runner-up finishes. He also placed T51 at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot last month and was T51 as well in the inaugural ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP last year.
With the tournament moving from Japan to the U.S. for this year only due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ishikawa hopes to put on a good showing for fans in Japan now that he is injury-free.
“It’s unfortunate we cannot have the tournament in Japan this year, but I would like to thank ZOZO for still hosting this event. I’ll do my best to make use of this opportunity.”
For 30-year-old Korean-American Chan Kim, who attended Arizona State University and is a four-time winner in Japan, a second appearance in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP is another chance to test himself against the best in the world.
“This event means a lot to me because of the opportunity we are given to compete with the world’s best golfers. I am very thankful for this amazing opportunity for some of the Japan Tour’s best to showcase our talent on the big stage. I can’t wait for the event,” said Chan, who placed T30 in last year’s tournament.
The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD will be broadcast in the United States on the Golf Channel from Oct. 22-25 at 5pm to 8pm (ET).
In Japan, fans can tune in to the live broadcast on GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR, NHK BS1, and Golf Network from Oct 23-26, 6am to 9am JST (broadcast times may be extended) and a 2-hour highlight broadcast on Oct 26, 6pm to 7:54pm on BS Asahi.
Fans can also tune into Featured Group coverage on GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR from Oct 23-26, 1:45-9am JST. The latest broadcast schedule can be found on the official tournament website.
Sherwood is a Jack Nicklaus Signature designed golf course and was the venue for Woods’ tournament, the Hero World Challenge, from 2000-2013. Woods has a terrific record at Sherwood where he won his own event five times (2001, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011) and finished runner-up on five other occasions, thus raising anticipation that the 2020 ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD could produce an unprecedented 83rd PGA TOUR title for Woods.
The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD will feature 78 professionals, including the leading players from the 2019-20 FedExCup points list, players designated by the Japan Golf Tour Organization and sponsor exemptions.