ISPS Handa Championship

Last year's staging of this event in Japan went the way of Lucas Herbert, a player arriving from the Heritage and who had played the PGA Tour circuit all year in the lead in to this. It was another timely reminder that class acts dropping down in grade can often reap the rewards and with the DPWT having been missing in action for over a month, those with recent outings could have a fair advantage.

ISPS Handa Championship Tips

  • 3pts each-way K.Nakajima  18/1  (1/5 7) Paddypower
  • 3pts each-way M.Pavon  16/1  (1/5 7) Paddypower
  • 0.75pt each-way R.Ishikawa  80/1  (1/5 6) Skybet
  • 0.75pt each-way S.Kodaira  175/1  (1/5 6) Skybet


There is a change of venue this time around moving from the Ishioka GC last year to the wonderfully picturesque Gotemba Course that holds stunning views of Mount Fuji.

The golf course has held many Japanese Tour events in the last decade or so but the large majority of the DPWT golfers will be seeing this golf course for the first time. The same applies to us viewers also as our eyes will gaze upon this track for the first time.

We have little or no stats to feed on, but the course certainly looks tremendous with various water hazards dotted throughout as well as tall trees lining many holes. In many ways it reminds me of Wentworth and part of my preparation for this event will include looking at form there.

Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood gathered five titles here at this track between 1996 and 2005. Hideki Matsuyama won as an amateur back in 2011 so once again the best players in the field must be heavily considered.

Keita Nakajima at 18/1 (Seven Places)

I plan to keep things relatively simple in Japan this week with taking two from the top, and two from the bottom with the first being Keita Nakajima.

Words can't describe how impressed I was by the 23-year-old's performance in India and it looked like the birth of a potential superstar in Japanese golf.

Even with a final round of 73 in India he managed to win the event by four shots, and it was never in doubt over the weekend. Nakajima came onto this tour with plenty of promise and it didn't take him long to fulfill it.

Having won various Amateur Championships including his home version in 2021, he won on the main Japanese Tour before turning professional. Since then numerous titles have come his way and he nearly won on just his second DPWT start when finishing 4th in Ras Al Khaimah. His first effort was a 12th placed finish in this same event last year.

Overall Nakajima looks like he is going to achieve plenty more in his career and looks destined to play on a much bigger stage to this one in the not so distant future.

The Japanese tour has gone from strength to strength in the last decade and I don't think we can underestimate the players coming from there.

Nakajima is following in Matsuyama's spike prints and a win on home soil here to land his second DPWT victory in as many starts would cement his place in the game as the most exciting talent from Japan since the 2021 Masters Champion.

3pts each-way K.Nakajima  18/1  (1/5 7) Paddypower

Keita Nakajima - 3pts e/w @ 18/1

Mathieu Pavon at 16/1 (Seven Places)

I backed Mathieu Pavon in Singapore on his last trip to the DPWT where he finished 5th and I find little evidence to dissuade me in getting involved once again.

The Frenchman has consistently shown a higher level of form the rest of the field here for the last seven months and at 16/1 rates a fair price to land another victory. His extremely impressive finish to 2023 proved no flash in the pan as he went onto win at Torrey Pines in January, but what he has done since has proven that prestigious victory in California was no fluke either.

3rd at Pebble afterwards, then 12th at the Masters have been hugely impressive results for Pavon whose only missed cut since the turn of the year on the PGA Tour came at the tricky Sawgrass course.

Bezuidenhout has produced consistent results of late to warrant being alongside Pavon in the market, but I certainly don't believe he should be ahead of him and for that reason I'll wade in on Pavon winning when dropped in class.

The one slight negative is that he is a sponsors ambassador this week which may eat up some of his time, and possibly has been obligated to play here.

Nevertheless, he is a different animal these days to years gone by and he has enough in the locker to be prominent on the leaderboard at the weekend.

3pts each-way M.Pavon  16/1  (1/5 7) Paddypower

Mathieu Pavon - 3pts e/w @ 16/1

Ryo Ishikawa at 80/1 (Six Places)

Seve Ballesteros (2), Lee Westwood (3), Darren Clarke (2), Hideki Matsuyama (2), Shingo Katayama (2) and Hideto Tanihata (2) are six of seven the names who have won at this course multiple times so it'd be foolish to ignore that and for that reason I'm happy play one or two course winners, the first being Ryo Ishikawa.

Ishikawa is the 7th name on that list having won at this track three times, the first being back in 2010. After troubling injuries his career was derailed but the last year has been kind to him with many solid results coming in Japan.

Things were really looking up when he finished 4th in the Zozo Championship last October but has had setbacks since once again.

However, he returned to action three weeks ago in Japan and despite a middle of the pack effort can be encouraged that after a four month break he managed four under par rounds shooting 70-70-69-67.

Now he heads back to the scene of his latest victory and although the standard this week is much higher with the integration of the DPWT members, course form counts for a lot around here and I'm happy to include this former PGA Tour stalwart.

0.75pt each-way R.Ishikawa  80/1  (1/5 6) Skybet

Ryo Ishikawa - 0.75pts e/w @ 80/1

Satoshi Kodaira at 175/1 (Six Places)

Another course winner worth chancing here is Satoshi Kodaira. The Japanese star overcame the likes of Si Woo Kim and Bryson Dechambeau to win the RBC Heritage back in 2018 but has since struggled.

He will need to take a fair step up to win this also, but we know he is capable and despite a run of missed cuts across various tours he could be dangerous once again back in his home country.

His last visit to this part of the world yielded a top 12 finish in a PGA Tour event at the Zozo Championship last October and signs last time out on the Korn Ferry Tour weren't all too bad when making the cut in the Club Car Championship.

Rounds of 71-70-69 were ruined by a third round of 79 that week, but he can be encouraged by his efforts during the majority of that event. A first round of 67 in Puerto Rico last month saw him towards the top of the leaderboard after day one only for a disastrous second round to condemn him to the weekend off.

Nevertheless, there have been signs in between that he's playing ok golf and can be expected to improve back home on a course he has already won on.

0.75pt each-way S.Kodaira  175/1  (1/5 6) Skybet

Satoshi Kodaira - 0.75pts e/w @ 175/1