Stars return to Japan Tour
BY Bruce Young | Japan Tour | 2014 Nagashima Shigeo Invitational Sega Sammy Cup | Preview | 01 Jul 2014
The Japan Tour moves north to the island of Hokkaido this week for the Nagashima Shigeo Sega Sammy Cup, the tournament made all the more significant by the first Japan Tour appearance of the season for Japan’s rising superstar Hideki Matsuyama and the reappearance of Australian Brendan Jones.
From an Australian perspective, the highlight is the return to tournament golf of Jones, who has spent essentially the last nine months or so away from the tournament scene following injury to and surgery on his wrist. That he is back is important for the Japan Tour given his success in Japan over the last 13 years or so. He did make one attempt to play an event earlier this season but it was short lived as the return from wrist surgery was premature
Jones is one of the most prolific winner of money and titles (13) in Japan and his absence from the Tour has been significant for both he and the Tour itself, the Canberra golfer being the leading foreign player there for much of that time.
Jones has no expectations this week but the wrist certainly is better and Jones feels it will be his lack of tournament play rather than any injury concerns that will be the issue this week.
“I have not tested it (the wrist) under tournament conditions but since I had the screws removed in May things have gotten a lot better and I am just looking forward to easing my way back into things,” said Jones this week.
“It is great to be back and to have received the support of my fellow competitors this week has been special but it will be a week by week thing to see how it all comes together.”
Matsuyama has now reached the lofty heights of world number 14 following his great victory at the Memorial and other good finishes this season. The last time he played a Japan Tour event was in November of last year when he won the Casio World Open so the Japanese golfing public will no doubt flock to see the young man who appears destined for greatness in the game.
Matsuyama finished 4th in this event last year so there is a lot to suggest he can again do well before heading off to the Open Championship where he did so well when 6th last year.
The defending champion for this week’s event is Shunsuke Sonoda who won is second Japan Tour title in the process. Sonoda’s form in 2014 has been average at best so it will be interesting to see whether good memories can assist him to get things back on track.
Also in the field is Japan’s other international star Ryo Ishikawa so the battle between Japan’s most exciting talents in recent times will alone be worth the price of admission. Ishikawa has not won this event previously but has played well finishing second and third in recent years.
The Australasian contingent is large. In addition to Jones, Brad Kennedy, Scott Strange, Steve Conran, Michael Hendry, Kurt Barnes, Steve Jeffress, David Smail, Matthew Guyatt, Stephen Leaney and Richard Tate will tee it up in the A$2 million event.