Major Champions Koepka, Clarke to Play Together in Japan Tour’s ‘Extraordinary Event’
Brooks Koepka, winner of this year’s U.S. Professional Golf (PGA) Tour major, the PGA Championship, and U.S. Open champion Windham Clarke (USA) will play together in a Japan Golf Tour (JGTO) event.
According to the organizers of the JGTO Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on Friday, they and Japanese men’s golf icon Hideki Matsuyama will play in the same group for the first two rounds of the four-day event at the Phoenix Country Club (Par 70-7,042 yards) in Miyazaki, Japan.
Koepka, who won this year’s PGA Championship to become the first LIV player to win a major, along with his fifth major title, previously won the Dunlop Phoenix tournament in 2016 and 2017.
The Dunlop Phoenix Tournament, which has been held since 1974 and is now in its 50th year, is one of the JGTO’s premier events with a total prize fund of ¥200 million (approximately $1.73 billion).
It has the largest prize pool except for the ISPS Handa Championship, which is co-organized with the DP World Tour ($2 million-approximately KRW 2.6 billion), and the Japan Open, which has a total prize pool of 210 million yen this year.
Tiger Woods (2004-2005), Tom Watson (1980-1997), Luke Donald (2012-2013), and many other world-class players have won the event.
To date, only Masashi Ozaki (Japan) has won the event three times, in 1994, 1995 and 1996, and if Koepka returns to the top of the leaderboard after a five-year absence in 2018 (tied for 12th), he will tie the all-time record for most victories.
Speaking at the press conference, Koepka said, “It’s been five years since I’ve been here, but I’m looking forward to it with such a relaxed feeling that I don’t feel the time. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Japanese fans,” he said, “and the grouping is particularly interesting.”
“This is a special tournament for me, and I think the confidence I gained from winning this tournament led me to win subsequent majors,” he said, “so if I can win again this year, it will build my confidence for the next few years.”
Having played a Pro-Am round earlier in the day, he said, “I made a few mistakes, but I’m in pretty good shape. I was focused on being consistent,” he said, adding, “I think the greens are a little firmer and faster than they have been in the past, but the course is in great shape.”
With two wins on the PGA Tour in the 2022-2023 season, including the U.S. Open in June, and a third-place finish in the FedExCup standings, Clarke is the biggest star in the field alongside Koepka.
“I’ve played some practice rounds with them, but this will be my first time playing with them in a tournament,” Clarke said. I’m excited and honored to be playing with them,” said Clarke. “I know a lot of Japanese fans will be traveling to see Hideki, and I hope to entertain them with a good game.”
Sahith Sigala (USA), who earned his first PGA Tour victory at the Fortinet Championship in September, is also in the field, along with Korean players Ryu Hyun-woo, Song Young-han, Yang Ji-ho, Lee Sang-hee, and Jang Dong-gyu. No South Korean has ever won the tournament, with only four runner-up finishes, including Hwang Jung-gon in 2019. 사설토토