Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Dunlop Phoenix (Japan Tour)

I do not normally do previews of events from Tours outside of the United States, but with the PGA Tour done for the season, and with every golf writer in the world descending upon Dubai for the European Tour's season ending tournament, I decided to take a look at the Dunlop Phoenix event on the Japan Tour, which historically has attracted some big name players.

Course: Phoenix Country Club. Historically ranked one of the top 100 courses in the world and perhaps the best course in Japan, Phoenix has a similar look and play style as Augusta National, which is why many big name players make room in their schedule for this event. 

Strength Of Field: For a PGA Tour Event, it would be a C. For a Japan Tour event, it's an A. Jordan Speith and Webb Simpson join Ryo Ishikawa and Hideki Matsuyama for in a limited field events that also features the best players on the Japan Tour.

Extra Tidbits: For watchers of the PGA Tour, seeing a legend in their 50's playing an event is a big deal, and the tournament usually does something special for that player. On the Japan Tour, it is no big deal, as 67 year old Hall of Famer Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki plays regularly on the Japan Tour. He is in the field this week, as is his brother Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki...former PGA Tour winner Shigeki Maruyama returns to action this week. Shigeki only plays part time in Japan these days. He was last seen by PGA Tour audiences mentoring Hideki Matsuyama as a vice-captain of the 2013 International Presidents Cup team...Webb Simpson, Jordan Speith, Chris Stroud, Zach Sucher, and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are the PGA Tour players visiting this week. Ryo Ishikawa and Hideki Matsuyama are also PGA Tour members, but they still hold membership on the Japan Tour.

Fantasy Four:

Jordan Speith - Top ranked player in the field at 14th. Cooled off since his near miss at The Masters, but hasn't played terrible, either. Had more top 10's (6) then missed cuts (3) throughout 2014. 

Hideki Matsuyama - Top 10 finishes in his first two events on the PGA Tour this season, though he had a disappointing WGC event in China. Has climbed all the way to number 20 in the World Golf Rankings. This is more of a celebration event for Hideki, who won his first PGA Tour event last season, and will be looking to be come the first Japanese player to win a major next year. Still, don't be fooled - he will be looking to put on a show in front of his home crowd.

Hideto Tanihara - Three second place finished in the last eight events for Tanihara, who is inside the top 100 in the world but is in need of a win for an invitation to some big events. Has knocked on the door numerous times, but is without a win in 2014. Has made the cut the last two times he has played in the Sony Open in Hawaii, with the most recent being a T8 finish in 2014.

Hiroshi Iwata - Followed up his T3 at the WGC-HSBC Champions with a T19 last week. Was ranked 461st in the world at the end of last year, and is now inside the top 100 after a year that included one win and seven top 10s compared to three missed cuts (two of which came in a three week stretch this past summer). Is playing out of his mind golf right now, and may be looking looking to steal a trophy in Hawaii in January. That's a long way away for Iwata, who is currently fourth on the Order Of Merit and could inch closer to the number one spot with a win this week. 

Last Weeks Team:
Chris Stroud: T23
Angel Cabrera: CUT
Carlos Ortiz: T9
Will MacKenzie: T9