Marksaeng Heading to the Top of the Hills
The Japan Tour heads to the hills this week, Shishido Hills, for the Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup Shishido Hills. The event started in 2000 and after three years at the Horai CC headed to it's current venue and Yoshitaka Takeya took away the victory here last year. Japan is 8 hours ahead of the UK and so this will start at 10.30pm Wednesday evening UK time, on the 3rd June.
The Course & Past Winners
There are two courses at Shishido Hills and it is the West Course that is used for this event. It has played as a variety of lengths and pars over the years it has hosted, and last year played 7,402 yards and a par 72 for the second time in its history, and had played as a par 71 before that except from 05-07 when it was a par 70.
It is a tree lined course in most part and it's the fairway's that look narrow and tough to hit. As well as a few holes that play around the edge of the three lakes on the course. If your Japanese is up to scratch the club website has nice previews of each hole written by former winners & players.
The course is in the Ibaraki Prefecture north of Tokyo and near the city of Kasama.
The winners of this event at Shishido Hills have been:
||Players Under Par
||J B PARK
||S K HO
Easier scoring since it switched to a par 72, perhaps as you'd expect, although many still finding it tough and not making par, and just 5 made double figures despite the lowest winning score.
Having pointed out last year that 6 of the previous winners had not played the year before they won here, including 2 on debut, and 3 had missed the cut the year before Takeya broke that trend a little having been 41st in 2013, the best performance in the year before a player won here.
Favourite for the event is Korean Kyung-Tae Kim
as he arrives in good form. In the first event of the year, the Token Homemate Cup he was 15th, then 10th at The Crowns, 41st at the Japan PGA Championship before missing the Kansai Golf Open to head home to Korea for the SK Telecom Open where he was 3rd. Headed back to this tour last week and was 8th at the Mizuno Open. Would break the trend of poor performances in the year before the win as he was 6th here last year, one of three top ten's here having been 4th in 2010 and 5th in 2012. Made his debut here in 2008 and finished last of the 63 to make the cut, and was 41st alongside last year's winner in 2013. Finishing at 21 over par back in 2008 means his average is 71.55 which is 19th best in the field and he has 45% (9/20) rounds under par which is 27th best in the field, but it improves to 70.38 & 56% if you ignore that first visit. If accuracy is key here then he sits 27th in fairways hit and 11th in greens.
An experienced player with eleven appearances here is Prayad Marksaeng
(pictured) and like Kim he has three top ten's here, as well as four more top twenty appearances. He was 6th on debut here in 2004 and then 17th, missed the cut in 2006 before a pair of 18th place finishes and the second of his two missed cuts in 2009. Only 58th in 2010 before improving with 15th & 8th, 31st in 2013 and 5th last year. Overall an average round of 71.58 which is 21st best in the field, and 40% (16/40) of rounds under par which is 35th best in the field but most of those above have just a few visits and are 2 from 4 or even 1 from 2. After a 3rd in India, another tight course, he returned to action after two months off with 8th in the Token Homemate Cup & the following week in Indonesia, 16th at The Crowns, only 56th at the Japan PGA Championship, 24th two weeks ago at the Kansai Golf Open and 6th last week, so overall is in good form. 34th in fairways hit and 21st in greens on tour this year.
Three guys have similar records here, all making their debut in 2012. Yoshinori Fujimoto
made it a perfect debut with the win, four shots behind in 4th was Juvic Pagunsan
, and Masahiro Kawamura
a further shot back in 5th. All three narrowly missed the cut in 2013, Pagunsan & Kawamura by a shot and Fujimoto by two. Then last year Pagunsan headed the trio in 14th, Kawamura a shot back in 16th and Fujimoto a further couple back in 25th. Fujimoto & Pagunsan both average 70.20 which is 3rd best in the field and Kawamura 70.40 which is 6th, whilst Fujimoto has 7 under par rounds for 70% (3rd best) compared to the other 6 for 60% (5th best), but he has beaten 70 in the last two years.
All three have had some good results recently as well. Fujimoto
is the highest ranking of the three in 8th on the money list, and World ranking in 158th which is 9th highest in the field. He's the highest on the money list as he's only played on this tour finishing 8th, 51st, 3rd, 9th and 32nd in the five events so far this year. Kawamura
is next highest in 20th and 371st in the World, and has been playing in the dual ranking event in Asia between the Asian & European Tours. Started poorly with missed cuts in Malaysia and India either side of 69th in Thailand, before a 60th in the first event on this tour. Improved with a 35th in Indonesia back in Asia, before 31st at The Crowns, then had his two top finishes with 5th in Mauritius and 4th at the Japan PGA Championship, had a week off before 32nd last week. Finally Pagunsan
he too started the year slowly with 25th in Malaysia and 60th in Thailand, missed the cut & 51st in the opening two events on this tour, improved to 11th at the Japan PGA and 5th the following week, but missed the cut last week. None are particularly accurate off the tee, Fujimoto in 42nd, Kawamura 56th & Pagunsan 86th, but the first two do improve massively with the greens hit, with Fujimoto in 2nd and Kawamura 14th, Pagunsan just a small improvement in 60th.
Seemingly having a feast or famine this year are Kazuhiro Yamashita & Sang-Hee Lee
as they have 4 top three finishes but 6 missed cuts between them. Yamashita started the year with a missed cut in New Zealand before 2nd place finishes in the first two events on this tour, then in the last three weeks has missed the cut at the Japan PGA & last week but had a 9th in between. Lee also started the year with a missed cut, his at the first event on this tour, before heading home for a 3rd in Korea, then 41st at the Crowns was followed by 2nd at the Japan PGA, but has missed the cut in the last two weeks. Lee is the more accurate off the tee in 30th, compared to 41st for Yamashita sitting just ahead of Fujimoto. That comparison with Fujimoto follows through to the greens hit as Yamashita leads the tour just ahead of Fujimoto, with Lee down in 20th.
His runner up finish here last year added to 33rd in 2013 means Lee
leads the field with an average round of 69.75 and 75% (6/8) rounds under par, two even par rounds in 2013 the rounds not under par. Whilst Yamashita
made his debut in 2008 and was 39th, 6th in 2009 is his best finish, but then missed the cut in 2010. A consistent record since with 15th, 12th, a missed cut in 2013 and 12th again last year. Overall he averages 71.54 which is 18th best in the field and 46% (11/24) rounds under par, but that improves to 70.86 & 57% in the last 4 years.
A few to look through there and I haven't mentioned Hiroshi Iwata
who has been 7th & 5th here in the last two years. Or Daisuke Maruyama
who has had four top ten finishes in the last 5 years here, and is 2nd in driving accuracy. However my shortlist is still quite long with Kim, Marksaeng, Fujimoto, Kawamura and Yamashita all making good cases with good recent form, good finishes here and reasonable accuracy stats at worst. I think swaying it for me is his 3rd in India on another tight course at the Delhi GC and so my pick is Prayad Marksaeng
, especially as he is 33-1 with SkyBet.