More than 20 Japanese and Korean players from the Japan Tour have confirmed to date for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open to be staged at Millbrook Resort and The Hills on 9-12 March
With the lucrative Japan Golf Tour home season not getting underway until April, the best from that Tour are increasingly looking to New Zealand for some tournament play.
Daisuke Kataoka, in action at Millbrook Resort last year, returns after finishing sixth on the Japan Tour Order of Merit in 2016.
Amongst the Japanese contingent confirmed for Queenstown are leading players Yusaku Miyazato, Shunsuke Sonoda, Toshinori Muto, Yoshi Fujimoto, Daisuke Kataoka and Ryutaro Nagano.
While these players may not be household golfing names in New Zealand, the sextet have secured 16 wins between them on the Japan Golf Tour, and combined career earnings of around NZ$26million.
What is more, their average age is just 31 years, so they are just finding their best form in the game.
Sonoda and Fujimoto finished in the top five last year and look likely to contend again at the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open.
Leading the way is Miyazato, the 36 year old who has three wins to his credit and over NZ$7million in earnings. He was second on the Japan OOM in 2015 and fought back well last year after a slow start.
Muto, also 36, has six career wins to his credit with six top-10s in 2016 including runner up in the Japan PGA Championship and total earnings approaching NZ$7million.
The excitement machine is 28 year old Kataoka, who defies his diminutive 67kg frame with some big performances in 2016 led by victory in the Top Cup Tokai Classic and runner-up efforts in the Fujisankei Classic and The Crowns among his nine top-10 finishes for the year.
His performances pushed him to sixth on the Japan Order of Merit, with Muto 13th and Fujimoto 15th with seven top-10s including four in a row.
While the tournament has attracted plenty of well-known golf names from New Zealand and Australia especially, along with USPGA Champion Y.E. Yang, the Japanese contingent will no doubt provide plenty of fireworks.
The ISPS Handa New Zealand Open is a NZ$1 million Tier One event on the PGA Tour of Australasia, in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour, to be played in Queenstown at Millbrook Resort and The Hills on 9-12 March.