With a ticket to the 150th The Open at St Andrews this July at stake, there will be plenty to play for when the ¥100 million Asia Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup gets underway at the Oarai Golf Club in Ibaraki Prefecture on Thursday.
Expect a thrilling battle at the 53rd edition of the Diamond Cup as the best players from JGTO and Asian Tour face off for the first time since 2019, with the tournament now back as a jointly-sanctioned event by both Tours.
Led by in-form defending champion Rikuya Hoshino and current Order of Merit leader Yuto Katsuragawa, the JGTO contingent will be out to resume their dominance on home soil.
It also features a strong cast of JGTO’s international members, including Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe, Jbe Kruger of South Africa, American Todd Baek and South Korea duo Younghan Song and Kyungtae Kim, who won the Diamond Cup twice in 2010 and 2015.
Dual membership players like Australia’s Brad Kennedy, India’s Rahil Gangjee and Angelo Que of the Philippines are among the international players seeking to capitalise on an opportunity to improve their status on both Tours with a good outing this week.
Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih Chang’s victory in 2016 marked the only time the title had gone to an Asian Tour member throughout the seven years of co-sanctioning since 2014.
In the absence of reigning Money List winner Chan Kim of the United States and South African Shaun Norris, the spotlight will be on Vincent as he makes his first JGTO appearance this season.
The 29-year-old has not played in Japan since his tied-seventh finish at the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup last year.
The 2020-21 season was Vincent’s best yet, as he claimed his two titles by triumphing at the Sansan KBC Augusta and ANA Open in a span of four weeks between August and September.
The Diamond Cup is also a truly unique event which aims at promoting the development of junior golf in Japan and the region, with a total of 20 spots allotted for promising amateur stars in the tournament.
Leading the amateur field this year is none other than Japan’s pride and world number one amateur Keita Nakajima, who already boasts one JGTO title to his name.
Then amateur Ren Yonezawa had come close to winning the tournament in 2019 when he came in joint runner-up behind Yosuke Asaji.
Hoshino, regarded as the ‘nearly man’ of this season, will be hoping to finally taste success before heading to the US by defending his title this week.
Hoshino came third at the Token Homemate Cup before following up with two runner-up results at the Kansai Open and ISPS HANDA Championship.
He also finished a commendable seventh to make four top-10 finishes in all four starts.
With next week’s PGA Championship start in the bag, the currently ranked 67th Hoshino is harbouring hopes of securing a place in the US Open by cracking the world’s top-60 ranking within the next two weeks.
A successful title defence this week will earn him another Major start at St. Andrews in July.