The Zozo Championship Is New PGA Tour Golf Tournament in Japan

Tiger Woods plays a shot during the Japan Golf Tour's Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in 2006.
Tiger Woods plays a shot during the Japan Golf Tour's Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in 2006.

Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images

A PGA Tour golf tournament in Japan, the Zozo Championship, debuted in October 2019. It joined the PGA Tour's CJ Cup at Nine Bridges (South Korea) and WGC HSBC Champions (China) tournaments to create a three-event "Asian Swing" during the opening part of the 2019-20 tour schedule. (PGA Tour seasons open in October and close in August.)

This tournament replaced the CIMB Classic (Malaysia) on the PGA Tour schedule.

The Zozo Championship is be the first-ever annual, official PGA Tour tournament played in Japan. Title sponsor Zozo, which operates the largest Japanese online fashion website, according to the PGA Tour, signed a six-year sponsorship agreement.

The tournament is co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour. With a purse in Year 1 of $9.75 million, it's the most-lucrative golf tournament ever played in Japan.

2019 Tournament: Woods Makes History

What a way for a new golf tournament to arrive, with Tiger Woods as its first champion.

Woods won the 2019 Zozo Championship wire-to-wire, opening with back-to-back rounds of 64 and eventually winning by three strokes over runner-up Hideki Matsuyama. It was Woods' 82 career PGA Tour victory, tying Sam Snead for most in tour history. His 261 total is tied for Woods' third-lowest stroke total of his career.

Format and Field

The format for the Zozo Championship is 72 holes of stroke play—the PGA Tour standard, and the standard for most top-level professional tournaments. However, unlike most standard PGA Tour tournaments, the Zozo Championship does not have a full field.

The number of golfers playing is 78, compared to the typical 144- to 156-player field at many PGA Tour stops. There is no cut.

Those 78 golfers consist of the 60 highest-ranked players from the previous season's FedEx Cup list who wish to enter, the top seven golfers on the Japan Golf Tour's money list, the top three finishers in the Japan Tour's 2019 Bridgestone Open, plus eight special exemptions (golfers chosen for entry by the tournament sponsor).

About the Golf Course

The Narashino Country Club is in Inzai, in Chiba Prefecture, about 50 miles east of Tokyo. The club dates to 1976 and has two, 18-hole golf courses, the King's Course and Queen's Course.

The Zozo Championship will be played on the King's Course, which is a par-72 layout. It features white-sand bunkers on many holes and abundant water hazards. Much of the course plays through a forested area and the tall trees make the fairways feel narrow.

The club has only a very small driving range that tops out at 250 yards deep, so PGA Tour pros might be getting in their practice time during the tournament at a nearby facility.

History of PGA Tour Golf Tournaments in Japan

When the 2020 Summer Olympics were awarded to Tokyo—meaning the Olympic golf tournament will be played in Japan that year—the PGA Tour did something it had never before done: opened an office in that country. That was in 2016. And now, in 2019, the PGA Tour launches a golf tournament in Japan.

While the Zozo Championship is the first, annual PGA Tour event in the country, it's not the first time the tour has been there, at least indirectly.

The World Cup of Golf, in the 1950s and 1960s one of golf's biggest events, and decades later a WGC tournament for a spell, was played in Japan in 1957, 1966 and 2001. The PGA Tour helped organize and run those events.

The PGA Tour also owns the top-level world golf tour for senior (over-50) golfers, the Champions Tour. And the Champions Tour has played several tournaments in Japan over the years, including the current, annual Mastercard Japan Championship.