Chiba (Japan): Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are the major attractions in a world-class line-up as the US PGA Tour breaks new ground with its first tournament in Japan this week.
The inaugural Zozo Championship tees off Thursday offering a 9.75 million prize pot as the middle leg of the Tour’s new near 30 million three-tournament Asian swing.
It began last week at the 9.75 million CJ Cup in South Korea, won by Justin Thomas, and concludes at next week’s 10.25 million WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Woods, who won his 15th major at this year’s US Masters, will be joined at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in front of an expected tens of thousands of golf-crazy Japanese fans by a who’s who of golf.
World number two and PGA Tour Player of the Year McIlroy, eighth-ranked Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and US Open Champion Gary Woodland are just a few sprinkling more stardust.
In-form Thomas will be aiming to improve his incredible strike-rate with a fifth victory in 10 starts in Asia after his second CJ Cup win in three years on Sunday elevated him to number four in the world.
But most eyes will be on Woods, and his troublesome left knee, after the world number 10 underwent arthroscopic surgery two months ago.
A smiling Woods said on Monday his recovery “was ahead of schedule” before he played a full 18 holes in an exhibition match on the Zozo Championship course in Chiba Prefecture.
“I’m probably a week early. My season had ended a little bit earlier than I had expected it,” said Woods.
“I had the procedure a little bit early and got ahead of it.”