Japan to host first PGA Tour event in 2019 with space billionaire’s backing

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Japan is set to host its first ever PGA Tour event after signing a six-year deal with fashion website Zozotown.

“I think this will be the first PGA Tour sponsor that is going to the moon,” said the company’s billionaire founder Yusaku Maezawa, who in September announced he was the first customer to pay for a trip around the moon on Elon Musk’s SpaceX craft.

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“I haven’t decided who I will take to the moon with me yet,” he said. “I would like to talk to many people with an open mind.”

It seems fitting, then, for Maezawa to describe the coup as a “moonshot” for Japanese golf, adding that he was “extremely honored” to be approached by the PGA Tour.

“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 explained.

“[We] would like to make it as exciting of an event as possible.”

‘A dream’

The Zozo Championship will make its debut as a FedEx Cup event in the 2019-20 season with a total prize purse of $9.75 million.

To be played between October 24 and 27 at Narashino Country Club in Chiba, the tournament will replace Malaysia’s CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.

The 78-strong field will consist of 60 PGA Tour professionals, seven players from the Japan Golf Tour Organization, the top three from the 2019 Bridgestone Invitational and eight sponsor exemptions.

Japan’s top-ranked professional golfer, five-time PGA Tour winner Hideki Matsuyama, said he hoped to join Maezawa on his new adventures, both on earth and in space.

“I don’t know whether he will ask me, but I would love to go (to the moon),” Matsuyama joked.

“There’s a lot of differences between the JGTO and PGA,” he added. “So hopefully, the fans will get to enjoy them through their own eyes, not through television.”

Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president, called Japan a “pioneer of golf in Asia” with “an incredible rich history in professional golf” from World Golf Hall of Famer Isao Aoki in the 1970s and 80s to Matsuyama today.

“Finally this day has come … if I were a little younger, I would want to compete in it,” laughed the 76-year-old Aoki, who acts as the JGTO’s chairman. “I wish this day had come earlier.

“[It has been] a dream for Japanese golfers to compete in a PGA Tour tournament in person.”