Panasonic Open provides eclectic mix
BY Bruce Young | Japan Tour | 2010 Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open | Preview | 22 Sep 2010
The Japan Golf Tour takes on a different dimension this week with the playing of the Asia Pacific Panasonic Open at the Rokko Kokusai Golf Club’s East Course in Kobe.
The tournament brings together not only the best of the Japan and Asian Tours but invites several other golfers, both professional and amateur, who have performed with distinction in selected events throughout the Pacific Rim in the past twelve months.
The event is being played for the third occasion but for the first time at this particular venue. The Rokku Kokusai Golf Club’s East Course, one of two layouts at the venue, was redesigned by Nicklaus Design in 1996 after being initially designed by the prolific Japanese architect Fukuichi Kato.
In 2008, Hideto Tanihara was the inaugural winner of the event when he defeated Azuma Yano while last year it Daisuke Maruyama who defeated Yuta Ikeda, Wen Chong Liang and Kyung-Tae Kim.
Interestingly Liang had also finished 3rd in 2008 and as the third highest ranked player in the world after Ishikawa and Ikeda he could again do well. Liang has been in outstanding form in recent weeks including a win in Thailand and a very impressive 8th place finish at the US PGA Championship
The last time a significant Japan Golf Tour event was played at the facility was in 1983 when Isao Aoki won the Japan Golf Open.
Japan and Panasonic’s favourite golfing product, Ryo Ishikawa (Ishikawa is sponsored by the electronics company) heads the field although he will be challenged by two other of Japan’s emerging stars in Yuta Ikeda and Shunsuke Sonoda.
Ikeda won last week in Hokkaido to record his 6th victory in the past 15 months while rookie Sonoda, a high school team mate of Ishikawa has been a revelation this season. Sonoda has already recorded a victory and three runner-up finishes and is in 5th position on the Japan Tour money list.
Seung Yul Noh and Kyung-Tae Kim are perhaps the best of the Koreans in the field, the 24 year old Kim currently leading the Japan Tour money list while Noh has played with distinction in co sanctioned event with the European Tour this season. Noh won the Malaysian Open earlier in the season and just two weeks ago finished 4th at the Omega European Masters.
This week is a great opportunity for numerous Australasians looking to play their way on to the Japan Golf Tour as a result of a one off start in a Japan Golf Tour event. That is of course in addition to the Australians who play the Japan Golf Tour on a regular basis.
In the former category the likes of New Zealander Mike Hendry is looking to continue his great run of recent form which included victory in the Indonesian Open, while in the latter, Brendan Jones will seek to carry over his improved showing last weekend where he finished 8th at the ANA event in Hokkaido after a slow start to the event.
In all, 18 Australasians get a start this week including amateurs Matt Jager, Jordan Sherratt, Brad Kendall and Peter Spearman Burn.
Other notable Australasians in the field include European Tour winners in 2010 Andrew Dodt and Marcus Fraser and former Japan Open Champions Paul Sheehan while Papua New Guinea Open winner Leigh Deagan celebrates his 26th birthday with a start in his very first Japan Golf Tour event.
Amongst other things such is the nature of this event It offers the chance for players who might not otherwise access the Japan Golf Tour to get a taste and, perhaps, with an exceptional week to earn the right to play there on a regular basis.