By Andrew Both
Tokyo (Reuters) – The PGA Tour announced a six-year deal on Tuesday for an official tournament in Japan from next year, to be sponsored by a company whose CEO has signed up to orbit the moon.
The inaugural $9.75 million Zozo Championship will be played Oct. 24-27 at Narashino Country Club in Chiba, part of the PGA Tour’s three-event Asian swing.
Yusaku Maezawa is CEO of online fashion retailer Zozo. He recently became the first paying passenger to ante up for a moon orbit on Elon Musk’s rocket ship.
Back on earth, the Japan tour stop for all intents and purposes replaces the CIMB Classic, which has been scrapped after nine years on the schedule in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“CIMB is realigning its sponsorship with the tour,” the tour said in a press release that raised more questions than it answered.
The Zozo Championship will feature a 78-man field comprised of 60 from the PGA Tour, 10 from the Japan Tour (JGTO) and eight special exemptions, the PGA Tour announced at a press conference in Tokyo.
The event will be co-sanctioned with the Japan Tour. It will fall between the CJ Cup @Nine Bridges in South Korea and the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai.
JGTO president Isao Aoki, the first Japanese player to win on the PGA Tour, said he wondered if he would live to see the day when the American-based organisation planted its flag in Japan.
“I’m 76 years old. Finally this day has come,” said Aoki, who won the 1983 Hawaiian Open.
“I wish this day had come earlier. This is a great opportunity to promote the Japan Golf Tour. I’m very emotional about having this big tournament in Japan.”
The media launch was also attended by Zozo founder and CEO Maezawa and Japanese number one Hideki Matsuyama.
Maezawa’s trip around the moon is tentatively scheduled for 2023. He has bought all six seats on the SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket.
On Tuesday, he demurred when asked whether Matsuyama would be one of his invited guests.
“I’d love to go, if asked,” Matsuyama said.
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)