ISPS Handa Championship 2024 Tips: Mansell in pole position to win in Japan

 | April 22 | 

14 mins read

Jamie DP World

Following a four-week absence, the DP World Tour returns to action this week with the second edition of the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan; taking place this year at the Taiheiyo Club’s Gotemba Course.

As always, we've asked our ace golf tipster Jamie Worsley to give us his ISPS Handa Championship predictions and he has four each-way picks ranging from 33/1 to 110/1.

ISPS Handa Championship Betting Tips

  • 1.5 pts Richard Mansell each-way (1/5 - 8 places) - 33/1 
  • 1.25 pts Bernd Wiesberger each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 40/1
  • 1.25 pts Taiga Semikawa each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 45/1 
  • 1 pt Pablo Larrazabal each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 55/1
  • 1 pt Sam Bairstow each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 66/1
  • 1 pt Kazuma Kobori each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 110/1

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

This event is co-sanctioned between the DPWT and JGTO (Japan Golf Tour), and after being cancelled for a couple of years due to covid, it finally made its debut last year at PGM Ishioka Golf Club.

Australia’s Lucas Herbert won that inaugural edition for his third DPWT success, beating Canada’s Aaron Cockerill in a playoff. Though Herbert doesn’t return to defend this year; instead he’ll be teeing it up in Adelaide on LIV.

That doesn’t take away from an interesting field, which includes many home talents who will be hoping to take inspiration from countrymen, Keita Nakajima and Rikuya Hoshino’s maiden DPWT victories this year.

THE COURSE

The Taiheiyo Club’s Gotemba Course – host of the 2001 World Cup of Golf - was designed by highly regarded Japanese architect Shunsuke Kato, opening for play in 1977. Since that year it has been the home of the Taiheiyo Masters on the JGTO, an event that has been won by Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal; whilst an amateur Hideki Matsuyama won there in 2011 and doubled up in 2016 by shooting a record 23-under-par winning score.

That second victory for Hideki prompted a renovation and toughening of the course in 2018 at the hands of Rees Jones and Bryan Swanson, with Matsuyama acting as a consultant on the project. They left the greens largely untouched but amongst other things, fairway bunkers were repositioned in an attempt to stop the venue from being overpowered.

With an average winning score of -9.33 in the six renewals of the Taiheiyo Masters since the changes, as opposed to -15.83 in the six events prior, they seem to have had the desired effect.

Set against the picturesque backdrop of Mt. Fuji, this pristine and densely tree-lined parkland course is a par 70 and will play to 7262 yards. It contains 12x par 4s (378-510 yards), 4x par 3s (178-230 yards) and 2x par 5s (525-565 yards).

The course is highly strategic, with the overhanging trees that line the narrow, rolling fairways requiring players to hit the correct side off-the-tee to avoid their approaches being blocked out.

It is well bunkered throughout, tightening up the already small landing areas in the fairways and surrounding many of the speedy putting surfaces.

Said greens are around average in size overall and players will need to be precise in approach to conquer them, with some tricky pin positions hard to access. Aside from the strong bunkering, there are several run-offs around the greens, often sending the ball tumbling into tightly-mown chipping areas; another feature of the recent renovation.

Water is in-play on seven holes and is a prominent presence at the beginning of the course – in-play on holes 1, 2, 4 and 5 – and returns towards the end, playing a key part in the closing two holes.

Among a tough set of par 3s, the 230-yard 17th may be the most demanding, with players needing to hit an approach over water and a large bunker. Take too much club and there’s another bunker to the rear of the green that will leave the them with a tough up and down.

With few chances given up easily on the par 4s, the field will need to make the most of the two scoreable par 5s. The 525-yard 18th is the shortest of the two and will be reachable for most in the field. However, with a bunker guarding the narrow fairway and water protecting the narrow green short and right, it is by no means a guaranteed birdie and we will see anything ranging from eagles to doubles+ there this week.

THE WEATHER

There is some rain forecast before the start of the event that should soften the Gotemba Course up. It looks set to disappear for the actual tournament and with little wind currently on show, players should get some enjoyably dry and warm playing conditions this week.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Around-the-Greens/Scrambling
  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation
  • SG: Off-the-Tee
  • Par 4 Scoring

We head into the unknown with this course making its debut on the DPWT and whilst the JGTO does have stats for the Taiheiyo Masters, they’re not the most informative.

Having said that, there was one thing that stood out among the most recent winners of that event and it’s that most of them were among the best scramblers on the tour in the years they won, with each of the last five winners ranking no worse than 32nd in this area.

Therefore, with what also looks like a difficult ball-striking test, the very best tee-to-green players in the field warrant the most respect.

In addition, there is great variety among the par 4s, with two at 500yds+ and several around/under the 400yd mark; with these holes making up twelve of the eighteen holes at the venue, it will be key to handle them well this week.

CORRELATING EVENTS

We have no comp form for this event but there are a few tree-lined courses on tour on which it is tough to find fairways and difficult to scramble around. These could help us out in Japan this week:

2020 Irish Open/ISPS Handa World Invitational (Galgorm Castle Golf Club)

Alfred Dunhill Championship (Leopard Creek Country Club)

British Masters (The Belfry – Brabazon Course)

Dubai Desert Classic (Emirates Golf Club)

THE FIELD

Winner of the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour and now top-25 player, Matthieu Pavon returns to DPWT action this week and is the top-ranked player in the field at #22. There are just a further three from the world’s top 100 in attendance; #58 Christiaan Bezuidenhout makes his first DPWT appearance of the year; #75 and home favourite, Keita Nakajima makes his first start since winning the Indian Open; #94 Jordan Smith rounds out those top-100 players.

Of the strong home gathering, 2023 Taiheiyo Masters winner, Shugo Imahira will be hoping to replicate what he did here on the JGTO at the end of last year; it’s the same story for 2019 winner here Takumi Kanaya, who enters this week after a win on his previous start; and along with fellow former #1 amateurs, Nakajima and Kanaya, Taiga Semikawa is part of a hugely talented group of youngsters to come out of Japan in recent years.

Pablo Larrazabal makes his first start in well over two months; Jesper Svensson tees it up for the first time since winning in Singapore in March; whilst Japanese-born New Zealander and three-time winner on the PGA Australia this year, Kazuma Kobori is among the tournament invitees.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Matthieu Pavon 12/1, Christiaan Bezuidenhout 14/1, Keita Nakajima 16/1, Takumi Kanaya 18/1, Yannik Paul 22/1, Jordan Smith 22/1

There’s little that appeals for me at the top of the market, for all Christiaan Bezuidenhout should always be massively respected when dropping back to this level, especially at a course that should suit.

The new course and four-week break looks a great opportunity for a breakthrough winner and after knocking on the door plenty in recent years, this can finally be the week that England’s Richard Mansell break his DPWT duck.

1.5 pts Richard Mansell each-way (1/5 - 8 places) - 33/1 

Mansell has been plying his trade on the DPWT for the most part since 2021 and has recorded several top 5s, but as yet the win has deserted him. Though he’s continued to hit the top of the leaderboard in 2024.

Prior to withdrawing after a difficult third round in India on his last start, Mansell had recorded seven straight top 25s on the DPWT going back to the double-header in Australia at the end of last year, with his form figures this year reading 14-25-9-9-11 before the WD in India.

He’s always looked a strong driver, combining his power with a reasonable level of accuracy and is again shining in this area this year, ranking 6th off-the-tee. However, it’s his improvements in approach, for which he ranks 25th this season and around-the-greens, ranking 30th, that has caught the eye; contributing to him being the 6th-best tee-to-green player on tour this season and 13th in par 4 scoring.

The quality of Mansell’s tee-to-green game should be a huge asset at this potentially demanding layout and as someone who often performs well on similar courses, shown by his 4th at Galgorm Castle in 2022 and a top 10 at The Belfry, I’m expecting him to be among the leading contenders this week.

1.25 pts Bernd Wiesberger each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 40/1

Playing better than almost anyone tee-to-green this season, it hasn’t taken Bernd Wiesberger long to settle back into life on the DPWT. Coming to a part of the world in which he’s tasted success several times, he’s well equipped to win in Japan.

The Austrian hit the top 25 on his return to the tour in Dubai and continued to show promise over his next three starts, finishing 37th at Ras Al Khaimah, 16th in Bahrain and 16th in Singapore. He did narrowly miss the cut on his most recent start in India but I’m happy to forgive anyone a subpar week on that quirky setup.

Bernd’s typically strong short game has been evident, ranking 2nd around-the-greens and he’s combining it with some top-class ball-striking, ranking 2nd in greens-in-regulation, 16th in approach and a solid top 50 OTT. All adding up to him ranking 3rd T2G.

With top 5s at The Belfry and in Dubai, Wiesberger has plenty of strong comp form. He already has wins in Korea and China to his name, and can add a third title in East Asia at the Gotemba Course.

1.25 pts Taiga Semikawa each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 45/1 

Taiga Semikawa has been producing some solid performances on the PGA Tour this season and if able to transfer that to these calmer waters, he has the talent to emulate what compatriots, Rikuya Hoshino and Keita Nakajima have managed to achieve on the DPWT this season.

The former #1 amateur burst onto the scene in 2022, winning twice on the JGTO when still an amateur, with one of those wins coming in the prestigious Japan Open Championship. He added two more titles to his cabinet on that tour last year, which went some way to helping him gain several exemptions into PGA Tour events at the start of this year.

Semikawa looked set to take serious advantage of the first of these in the Sony Open on his first start of 2024, entering the final round in T4 before a final-round 72 dropped him to 30th. It was still a solid performance at that level and he has since made two of his next three cuts there at Torrey Pines and in Puerto Rico.

In his first full season in Japan last year, he showed himself to possess a strong all-round game, ranking 4th in ball-striking, 11th on the greens and 25th in scrambling. Although, it is with driver that he has consistently impressed most, which he displayed when ranking 3rd OTT in that strong effort in Hawaii.

Despite missing the cut here last year, Semikawa did finish 8th at the Gotemba Course on debut in 2022. He has as many wins to his name in Japan as fellow youngster, Nakajima and with a higher ceiling than most of this field, he looked a tempting price this week.

1 pt Pablo Larrazabal each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 55/1

For my money, there are few players who look as consistently overpriced on the DPWT as nine-time winner, Pablo Larrazabal. He’s performed well so far in 2024 and if able to continue driving it straight, he’d have to have a big chance in Japan.

Larrazabal has played five times this year and hit the top 30 on four of those starts. His best effort came when 4th in the Dubai Desert Classic and when we last saw him, he finished 24th in Qatar.

He’s been excelling with the short game, ranking 13th ATG and 21st in scrambling, whilst he’s also been strong in approach, ranking 27th. Top 20 in par 4 scoring bodes well for this course and though often inaccurate and erratic with the driver, he drove it straight on his last two starts prior to this break in play.

Pablo has won four times in the last two years, winning for the first time in East Asia in the Korea Championship in 2023. There are few players in this field anywhere near as prolific as him and with a win at Leopard Creek, along with that top 5 in Dubai this year, this course could well provide a good stage for him to record DPWT win #10.

1 pt Sam Bairstow each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 66/1

Former top-10 amateur, Sam Bairstow has been continually impressive during his rookie season and has the tools to record a first DPWT win this week.

Bairstow turned pro at the end of 2022 after an amateur career that saw him win the prestigious Brabazon Trophy in 2021 and finish 2nd in The Amateur Championship in 2022. After initially starting slowly on the Challenge Tour last year, he got a first pro title in the Scottish Challenge and following a 4th-place finish in the season-ending Challenge Tour Grand Final, he’d done enough to earn his place on the DPWT for 2024; finishing 18th on the Road to Mallorca rankings.

He initially showed promise at this level in the wraparound events at the end of 2023, making three of four cuts but has stepped his form up considerably in 2024. In eight starts this year, he has recorded six top-25 finishes; seriously contending for the first time two starts ago in Singapore, entering the final round in 2nd place before finishing 3rd.

Whilst shining most with his short game so far this year, ranking 18th in putting and 25th ATG, the ball-striking has looked perfectly solid, ranking 26th in GIR and he is a player who possesses both accuracy and length OTT. Right now he looks without any glaring weaknesses.

The fact that Bairstow finished 17th on his only DPWT start of 2023 at Galgorm Castle is a boost, and we can also draw confidence from that first professional victory in the Scottish Challenge, at the similarly tight, tree-lined and strategic Newmachar Golf Club.

1 pt Kazuma Kobori each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 110/1

Jacques Kruyswijk is in good form and ticked plenty of boxes for me this week, however I’ve decided to take a chance of Kazuma Kobori. He played in India with plenty of interest surrounding him four weeks ago. Though missing the cut, he responded well from a poor first round there and as mentioned, that is a course at which I’m happy to forgive an off week, especially on debut.

Kobori was highly rated throughout his amateur career but he really stepped up his performances last year with a trio of victories in high-class events. He started 2023 by winning the Australian Amateur and then beat an excellent field in the Western Amateur Championship in the U.S. His final win of the year came in the Eisenhower Trophy, as he beat now PGA Tour winner, Nick Dunlap into 2nd place.

He turned pro after a 6th-place finish in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and immediately made an impact on the PGA of Australia, finishing 9th and 3rd on his first two pro starts.

Kobori was in incredible form down there at the start of this year, winning three times in his first five starts of 2024, automatically sewing up an instant upgrade to the DPWT next season.

As a self-described accurate ball-striker who can get hot on the greens, this course should suit, and he can make up for the disappointment of India by performing well on what is somewhat of a homecoming in Japan.

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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