Japan becomes the 51st country to host a DP World Tour event this week. Ernie Els is in the field, looking for a third career win in Japan, but do we fancy the four-time major champion? Scroll down for our inaugaural ISPS Handa Championship betting tips…
ISPS Handa Championship preview
Venue: PGM Ishioka Golf Club, Omitama, Japan
Date: April 20-23, 2023
Course stats: Par 70; 7,039 yards
Purse: $2 million
Defending champion: N/A (inaugural event)
Thursday: Sky Sports Golf and Main Event from 4am
Friday: Sky Sports Golf and Main Event from 4am
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf and Main Event from 4am
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf and Main Event from 3.30am
2023 ISPS Handa Championship betting tips
The Banker: Rikuya Hoshino @ 20/1
This is a name you are going to see banded about a lot this week and that sometimes ends in disappointment, but the case for Rikuya Hoshino is clear this week and almost impossible to overlook.
The 26-year-old from Japan is something of a veteran when you compare him to talented superstars like Keita Nakajima and Taiga Semikawa, but when you just view him in isolation, we have a player that turned pro in 2016 and has won six times on the Japan Golf Tour since 2018, which is an incredible achievement.
This week he returns to a golf course where his course figures read 2nd and 1st, with him being the 36-hole leader on the first occasion, when pipped by Yuto Katsuragawa at this event. That means he has led on this course after four of his eight rounds played here and never finished outside the top 2. Hoshino’s scoring average is 64.88 round PGM Ishioka Golf Club and say what you like about the level of tour, Hoshino is proven everywhere he’s played that he is capable.
Hoshino finished T26 at the US Open in 2021 playing amongst golf’s elite and then earlier this season he added a 6th place finish on this tour, at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, to prove the DP World Tour stage is far from too big for him.
Now with home comforts and a course he loves on his side, I see no downside to the impressive Hoshino.
The Next Best: Yannik Paul @ 30/1
There simply must be a bit of guesswork this week in Japan, as many of the European contingent have not played in a month, and, in the case of market leader Rasmus Hojgaard, not since February! These players are all lightly run, with a patchy schedule so far plaguing the DP World Tour season, but before this month hiatus, Yannik Paul was in incredible form, and I think he can continue that this week.
In his past two starts, both of which came in Asia, in Thailand and India, Paul finished 2nd in both. Paul first started showing life when finishing 34th at the Singapore Classic, but a week later in Thailand he showed more of his best stuff, finishing four shots behind our pick in the event, Thorbjorn Olesen. Paul was never outside of the top three that week and kept the pressure on the Dane, who was too good in the end.
A week later Paul was in Olesen’s shoes, leading after every round going into Sunday but he lost out that time as well – this time to veteran Marcel Siem by one stroke.
There are no guarantees he keeps up this run of form after an extended break, but there’s also nothing to suggest he won’t as we have simply not seen or heard from him, so I am going to give Paul the benefit of the doubt as he goes looking for his second DP World Tour win in as many seasons.
The Each-Way Play: Kazuki Higa @ 35/1
Kazuki Higa’s odds have come right in and any further reduction in odds from 35/1 should probably see you skip him this week, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love his chances of competing here.
In his past two starts on the DP World Tour, Higa has finished 11th and 4th and he now returns to Japan where he has of course proven to be most comfortable in his career.
Higa turned pro in 2017 and two years later he was winning for the first time on the Japan Tour, beating one of our other picks, Hoshino, by five strokes with a -26 winning score. He has gone on to win six times in total, four of which have been at -20 or better, so it is clear Higa has the low-scoring prowess that will surely be required to win this week at Ishioka.
Like Hoshino, Higa has played at this course two times, finishing 6th and 21st in the same two events Hoshino played, but that is not where the story ends. Higa was the 36-hole leader in this event 12 months ago and whilst he couldn’t hold on that week, he has proven time and time again he is more than capable of winning, even on the biggest of stages.
His best win came in November when he beat Mito Pereira by three shots at the Dunlop Phoenix, an event that features PGA Tour players each season. To win that event in such dominating fashion, when the field included the likes of Tom Kim, Corey Conners, Aaron Wise, and all the very best of the Japanese contingent, was particularly impressive.
He’s settled in nicely when playing on the DP World Tour over the past couple of seasons and now he gets the best of both worlds, playing at this level and playing at home. I like Higa’s chances of further success this week.
The Other Each-Way Play: Jazz Janewattananond @ 50/1
Finally, I will round out my selections with Jazz Janewattananond, who has been around for years but is still just 27 years old.
Janewattananond’s name has been floating around the Asian and DP World Tour’s for years, because he turned pro in 2010 when he was just 15 years old. Twelve years later, he has won 11 times as a professional seven of which have come on the Asian Tour.
Janewattananond maybe hasn’t kicked on like we expected him to at this level and perhaps on an even bigger stage but in 2019 he was showing the world just how good he was, beating Paul Casey in Singapore, before finishing T14 at the PGA Championship, where he was the low scorer on the Saturday. Since then, it has been far from plain sailing, with COVID perhaps slightly to blame given its disruption.
Jazz did however lose out to Daniel Van Tonder in a playoff back in 2021, as he looked for his first win on this Tour in Kenya, but now he can win here in Japan and make his mark once again. The Thai star is coming into the week off the back of three top-six finishes on the Asian Tour, where he has been a 54-hole leader and a 36-hole leader.
Last week he shot a 62 in Vietnam to put himself in contention again going into the weekend but couldn’t quite hold on again, so it is worth taking the extra each way places if you can get them.