This Japanese Tour event always manages to attract at least a couple of world stars, with overseas visitors usually faring well. 11 of last 20 runnings of this have been won by European or PGA Tour raiders. This year the only non prominent non-Japanese Tour regulars are ADAM SCOTT and Geoff Ogilvy. Only six of the field are ranked in the world?s top-100 and nobody in the top-40 bar the two Australians who are ranked 6th and 13th respectively.
When the first odds were published yesterday, I was inclined to back both of them but Ogilvy makes less appeal now in single figures. The former US Open champion is a class act for sure, but this is his first outing in six weeks and his first ever Japanese event. At double figures I would have probably had a saver as his best would guarantee a place at least, but 8/1 is just a little too short. He may well use this tournament to shake off any rust before the big forthcoming Australian events.
There are no such doubts surrounding Scott, who played well in Singapore to finish 3rd behind Cabrera. A repetition of that form would make him a certainty against this field. 9/2 is obviously not a very attractive price, but put into perspective when considering that its hard to make a case for more than seven or eight players here.
It is of course plausible that the very best Japanese players can bridge the gap on Scott with home advantage. The biggest danger must be SHINGO KATAYAMA, who has occasionally transferred his home form to the PGA Tour. Katayama is the top man on this Tour and won his penultimate start. He?s finished no worse than 5th in his last four Japanese Tour starts, and no worse than 11th in the last four runnings of this event. Everything suggests he will be right in the thick of it once again over the weekend.
DIASUKE MARUYAMA has been showing consistent form at a much higher level than this lately and must have a strong each-way chance. Maruyama has three top-20s from his last six PGA Tour starts, which only a handful of his opponents will ever be able to claim. We also know he plays Gotemba well, making the top-8 in each of the last two years.
KEIICHIRO FUKABORI has finished second and third previously in this event, and has been bang in form on the Japanese Tour in recent weeks. His last five starts have yielded three top-6 finishes including runner-up to Katayama in the Bridgestone Classic on his penultimate start. In an uncompetitive field, he could offer some each-way value at 40/1.