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Zozo set to host PGA Tour event in Japan

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Japan will host its first-ever PGA Tour event starting next year with one of the fastest growing online business companies in the nation as the tourney’s title sponsor, organizers announced on Tuesday.

The event will be called the Zozo Championship. The North American premier golf tour has agreed to a six-year deal starting with the 2019-20 season.

It will be a FedExCup tournament with a field of 78 players, which consists of 60 PGA Tour professionals. Seven players from the JGTO, the top three from the 2019 Bridgestone Open and eight others that are designated as sponsor exemptions. The event will be co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organization.

The Zozo Championship will make its debut Oct. 24-27 at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba Prefecture.

Yusaku Maezawa, the billionaire founder and president of Zozo, Inc, which runs Japan’s largest online fashion website Zozotown, said at a Tokyo news conference that his company has supported various sports, but that it would pour the “largest-scale support” into the Zozo Championship.

“When the PGA first approached us to discuss about this tournament, I was surprised because the PGA Tour has a long history and we are a newer company,” Maezawa said. “So we are extremely honored to host it and would like to make it as exciting of an event as possible.”

Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president, international, sent a video message from the organization’s headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“Japan has been a pioneer of golf in Asia and has an incredible rich history in professional golf, dating back to World Golf Hall of Famer, Isao Aoki,” Votaw said. “Hideki Matsuyama carries the torch today for Japan.”

Both Aoki and Matsuyama attended the news conference as well. Aoki, who serves as the JGTO chairman, was excited about the realization of hosting an inaugural PGA Tour event in Japan, saying that it had been “a dream for Japanese golfers to (compete in) a PGA Tour tournament in person (here).”

“If I were a little younger, I would want to compete in it,” joked the 76-year-old, who was the runner-up to Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 U.S. Open.

Matsuyama, who has racked up five wins on the PGA Tour, wants to compete in front of local crowds at the Zozo Championship and hopes his supporters can see him hoisting the winning trophy.

“There’s a lot of differences between the JGTO and PGA,” the 26-year-old Matsuyama said. “So hopefully, the fans will get to enjoy them through their own eyes, not through television.”

Maezawa, who announced that he booked the first commercial flight to the moon aboard SpaceX’s craft in September, said that he and his company have not come up with any concrete ideas yet, but that they hope to make the Japanese PGA Tour event a unique one by taking advantage of its expertise.

“We are a company that deals with fashion and IT,” the 42-year-old Maezawa said. “We would like to abundantly use those for the tournament, making it a fashionable and technological (event), something the world has not seen before.”

Christian Hardy, vice president of international of PGA Tour, stated: “The PGA Tour is honored to be welcoming an innovative and forward-thinking partner like Zozo.”