Paul Williams

Paul Williams' ISPS Handa Championship Tips 2023

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The DP World Tour returns this week after its extended break either side of The Masters, heading east to Japan and then South Korea this week and next, before the Tour hits mainland Europe for the first time in 2023 at the start of May.

The ISPS Handa Championship at PGM Ishioka Golf Club in Japan is our task this week, an event that was pencilled in to include DP World Tour players for the first time last year before lingering Covid-19 concerns limited the event to the local Tours only. After that false start, a field of 144 will assemble this week with a fairly even split of European regulars alongside some of the best players from the Japan Tour.

As we’ve seen a few times already in 2023, Rasmus Hojgaard has been chalked up as the favourite for this event, rating as a 14/1 chance at the time of writing. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Robert MacIntyre, Lucas Herbert, Jordan Smith and Antoine Rozner follow in the market at between 18/1 and 25/1, with a few more upper-end DP World Tour regulars following closely behind.

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Odds above used for illustrative purposes and were correct at 16:00BST 17.4.23, but are naturally subject to fluctuation.

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✅ ‘Each Way Extra’ promotion where you can choose between 3, 8, 10 or 12 places each way

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the ISPS Handa Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System during Major season. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 6,200-strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Overview. Having visited a couple of Jack Nicklaus designs in South African before the DP World Tour took its Masters-induced break, we visit an altogether different test from our last task at Steyn City this week, once again penned by the Golden Bear.

Modesty aside, Nicklaus was clearly pleased with his creation here to the north of Tokyo, describing it as “the best golf course I know of in Japan,” and this 7,039 yard Par 70 certainly looks like a stunner.

Parkland in style with relatively tight fairways lined with mature trees, the course has hosted a number of events on the Japan Golf Tour and the Japanese Challenge Tour (the Abema TV Tour) since the turn of the century to at least give us a starting point this week.

A regular Par 70 setup with just 2 Par-5s, those longer holes measure 544 yards and 576 yards to offer birdie and eagle opportunities to players who can get their drives away. Four sub-400 yard Par-4s offer further chances to score, balanced by a couple of holes approaching 500 yards that play as Par 5s for the members, however in general this looks like a scoreable track that should reap plenty of red numbers.

The scoring potential of this course is further underlined when you consider that 2003 champion Masahiro Kuramoto shot an opening 59 here on his way to victory, firing 12 unanswered birdies that day with the course playing to a pr of 71 at the time.

isps handa championship tips

Course Winners (JGTO unless stated): 2022, Rikuya Hoshino, -22; 2022, Yuto Katsuragawa,-24; 2021, Konosuke Nakazato, -18 (54 holes, Abema TV Tour); 2016, Yuta Ikeda: -14;  2015, K.H. Lee: -16; 2006, Mamoru Osanai, -14; 2005, David Smail, -13; 2004, Toru Suzuki, -13 (54 holes); 2003, Masahiro Kuramoto, -13; 2002, Toru Taniguchi, -16 (54 holes).

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s ISPS Handa Championship which might help point us in the right direction. Course stats relate to various events held here on the Japan/Abema TV Tours since 2002: Current Form | First Round Leader Stats | Course Stats | Combined Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

NEW! Our new Predictor Model is also available to use for this event – you can try it here.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.

A warm, sunny Thursday will deteriorate on Friday with increasingly heavy rain forecast through the day as a cold front pushes through the region. The weekend will be dry, calm and sunny though with slightly cooler temperatures around the mid-60s Fahrenheit.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. From a traditional stats perspective, we do have some data from the Japan Tour events held here over the relatively recent past:

  • 2022, Rikuya Hoshino. 290 yards (23rd), 78.6% fairways (8th), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), 69.2% scrambling (23rd), 1.69 putts per GIR (23rd).
  • 2022, Yuto Katsuragawa. 288 yards (19th), 85.7% fairways (3rd), 88.9% greens in regulation (1st), 50% scrambling (63rd), 1.66 putts per GIR (23rd).
  • 2016, Yuta Ikeda. 275 yards (30th), 85.7% fairways (3rd), 79.2% greens in regulation (1st), 60% scrambling (16th), 1.70 putts per GIR (15th).
  • 2015, K.H. Lee. 289 yards (10th), 73.2% fairways (27th), 75% greens in regulation (14th), 61.1% scrambling (28th), 1.64 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2006, Mamoru Osanai. 299 yards (5th), 80.4% fairways (6th), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st), 42.9% scrambling (55th), 1.67 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2005, David Smail. 275 yards (38th), 83.9% fairways (4th), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st), 78.6% scrambling (1st), 1.78 putts per GIR (30th).
  • 2004, Toru Suzuki. 287 yards (12th), 71.4% fairways (35th), 70.4% greens in regulation (26th), 56.3% scrambling (14th), 1.58 putts per GIR (2nd).

The last 3 winners here, and 5 of the 7 where stats have been recorded, topped GIR on their way to victory, which in lieu of any Strokes Gained statistics at least gives us a starting point for this week.

With the exception of David Smail, winners here have tended to be towards the mid- to upper-end of driving distance of those in attendance over the weekend, so strong Total Driving looks like a good asset to have here.

Current Form Of Winners: Incoming form of the winners here at PGM Ishioka since 2002 is varied; however each of the 10 victorious players had recorded at least one top-20 finish in their previous 6 starts:

  • 2022, Rikuya Hoshino: 13/MC/20/19/MC/27/20/30/26/MC/59/WD
  • 2022, Yuto Katsuragawa: MC/1/23/MC/31/35/17/2/32/2/MC/24
  • 2021, Konosuke Nakazato: MC/7/MC/47/7/MC/13/17/MC/MC/4/5
  • 2016, Yuta Ikeda: MC/23/14/MC/72/33/21/18/15/2/29/2
  • 2015, K.H. Lee: MC/32/2/70/31/1/MC/3/17/17/33/28
  • 2006, Mamoru Osanai: 34/40/MC/68/23/9/MC/MC/29/WD/MC/14
  • 2005, David Smail: 46/8/MC/28/MC/2/2/67/12/WD/14/32
  • 2004, Toru Suzuki: 32/22/MC/53/13/MC/MC/MC/59/MC/42/10
  • 2003, Masahiro Kuramoto: MC/MC/MC/MC63/32/38/MC/12/MC/57/MC
  • 2002, Toru Taniguchi: 65/MC/1/3/4/69/26/7/MC/9/4/6

Course Form Of Winners: With so many debutants this week from the DP World Tour, course form is understandably patchy overall for all but the local Tour players. 6 of the 10 winners here in the past had a top-10 finish though, so perhaps course experience might help some of the less well-known players contend this week:

  • 2022, Rikuya Hoshino: 2
  • 2022, Yuto Katsuragawa: 7
  • 2021, Konosuke Nakazato: 46
  • 2016, Yuta Ikeda: 8
  • 2015, K.H. Lee: Debut
  • 2006, Mamoru Osanai: 31/31/MC/MC/MC/MC/40
  • 2005, David Smail: 11/25/10/16/38/34
  • 2004, Toru Suzuki: 5/13/MC/8/18
  • 2003, Masahiro Kuramoto: MC/47
  • 2002, Toru Taniguchi: 1/2

A new course for two-thirds of the field this week means that this is undoubtedly a riskier event to bet on than some others, however the style, topography and agronomy of this Jack Nicklaus design should feel comfortable for many of the DP World Tour regulars who enjoy playing the parkland tests on mainland European and in England in particular.

Short and scoreable at the best of times, forecast rain at the start of the week and more possible on Friday could render this course fairly defenceless and at the mercy of the  GIR merchants and streaky birdie-makers in attendance this week.

My selections are as follows:

Antoine Rozner 2pts EW 25/1 (8EW, 1/5*) with bet365

I’ve sided with Antoine Rozner a few times this year with varying levels of success, however to see him around 5th or 6th in the betting here when he could quite reasonably be challenging Rasmus Hojgaard for that accolade convinces me that he should be backed here.

With only conventional stats to peruse from previous events held here at PGM Ishioka, it’s clear that players who can churn out GIR are at an advantage with 5 of the 7 winners here, where stats were recorded, having topped that stat on the week. So heading this week’s team with a player who also pounds the dancefloors with similar regularity seems a sensible ploy, and to that end the Frenchman fits the bill.

3rd for GIR for the full 2022 season behind the metronomic duo of Jordan Smith and Tommy Fleetwood tells us the sort of player we’re dealing with in Rozner, and 9th for the 2023 season – despite a few poor results – suggests that the 30 year-old has lost none of that ability in recent times.

Having won in Mauritius just before Christmas, Rozner shook off a couple of lacklustre efforts in the Middle East to start 2023 with much improved finishes of 6th in Singapore, 5th in Thailand and 3rd last time out at the SDC Championship. That last effort was on another Jack Nicklaus design and after a month’s break he should be fully geared up for this next phase of the season with the OWGR top 100 and a place at the year’s next Major within reach over the next few weeks.

19-under to win that aforementioned event in Mauritius in December, as well as 25-under when breaking through at DP World Tour level in Dubai back in 2020, suggests that Antoine has the scoring ability to contend here, and the dimensions and requirements of this week’s test should be right up his alley. RESULT: T35

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✅ Bet £10 get £30 in free bets for new customers
✅ Bonus code SPORT30 can be used, but does not change the offer amount in any way
✅ For further details read our bet365 new customer offer page
✅ Early odds available each week on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour
✅ ‘Each Way Extra’ promotion where you can choose between 3, 8, 10 or 12 places each way

bet365 New Customer Offer: New Customers only. Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets. Sign up, deposit between £5 and £10 to your account and bet365 will give you three times that value in Free Bets when you place qualifying bets to the same value and they are settled. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits. Min odds/bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. T&Cs, time limits & exclusions apply. Registration required. The bonus code SPORT30 can be used during registration, but does not change the offer amount in any way. #Ad

Yannik Paul 2pts EW 30/1 (8EW, 1/5*) with bet365

At a similar price point, I’m also backing Yannik Paul who came close for us on his last start at the Indian Open having led by 5 shots at the halfway point, only to be finally reeled in by Marcel Siem on the Sunday.

The best part of two months have passed since that disappointment for both Paul and myself to get over his defeat, however there’s little other justification in my view for his odds to have lengthened by 50% or more in the intervening period, so I’m happy to take the bookies on in that respect.

GIR is a strong theme this week and the German, like Antoine Rozner as I’ve already explained, excels in that department. 10th for greens hit for the full season last year, he’s 15th on the same count so far for the 2023 season and he arrives here having topped the stat on that aforementioned last start in India where he hit a massive 88.9% of greens in the requisite number.

A win at last year’s Mallorca Classic came at 15-under par and it’s fair to say that his best efforts have come in more stringent tests so far in his relatively short career at this level, however I don’t think he’s the kind of player we should pigeon-hole just yet and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that he can make birdies when required. 24 birdies when finishing 8th at last year’s Spanish Open is one such example, with 2 eagles and 22 birdies when finishing 2nd to Thorbjorn Olesen in Thailand more recently being another.

German golf is in a good place right now with Nick Bachem winning the last regular DP World Tour event at Steyn City last month, so perhaps Paul can keep the momentum going with victory here this week. RESULT: T6

*bet365 Golf Each Way Extra – Up to 12 places for Each Way Golf bets on selected tournaments. Each Way Extra gives you the option to increase or decrease the number of places when you are betting pre-event on the To Win Outright market on selected Golf events – add places on to your Each Way Golf bets for extra security at lower odds, or increase the price by removing places. Bet restrictions apply. For further details of how Each Way Extra works on golf click here.

✅ Bet £10 get £30 in free bets for new customers
✅ Bonus code SPORT30 can be used, but does not change the offer amount in any way
✅ For further details read our bet365 new customer offer page
✅ Early odds available each week on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour
✅ ‘Each Way Extra’ promotion where you can choose between 3, 8, 10 or 12 places each way

bet365 New Customer Offer: New Customers only. Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets. Sign up, deposit between £5 and £10 to your account and bet365 will give you three times that value in Free Bets when you place qualifying bets to the same value and they are settled. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits. Min odds/bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. T&Cs, time limits & exclusions apply. Registration required. The bonus code SPORT30 can be used during registration, but does not change the offer amount in any way. #Ad

Masahiro Kawamura 1pt EW 60/1 (8EW, 1/5*) with bet365

From a local perspective, all of the early money has been coming in for Rikuya Hoshino who’s finished 1st and 2nd at PGM Ishioka Golf Club from his last two starts here, and who also finished 2nd on his last start on the Japanese Tour a fortnight ago.

25/1 seems plenty short enough for a player whose experience at DP World Tour level – co-sanctioned or otherwise – is limited, and his last two efforts resulted in missed weekends in Singapore and Kenya. At more than double the price, Hoshino’s compatriot Masahiro Kawamura makes more appeal as he edges closer to a DP World Tour breakthrough.

The 29 year-old has yet to build on his breakthrough victory almost a decade ago at the co-sanctioned Japan/Asian Tour’s Panasonic Open, however there’s plenty to suggest that he’s got what it takes to win again – and at a higher level than that victory too.

2nd behind Robert MacIntyre at the 2020 Cyprus Showdown, Kawamura racked up 4 top-7 finishes in the second half of 2021 and another 4 last year as he continued to perform well at DP World Tour level.

17th at the Indian Open in February was followed by another runner-up finish, this time behind Jorge Campillo at the Kenya Open on his last start just over a month ago. 43 birdies over those two starts is an excellent haul as his typically accurate game was complimented by an increasingly warm putter.

A month off and a return to his homeland may see Kawamura contend again this week – indeed 4 runner-up finishes on home soil to add to that Panasonic Open victory suggests that he’s comfortable on home soil, with two of those runner-up efforts coming in his last 6 starts in Japan. RESULT: MC

*bet365 Golf Each Way Extra – Up to 12 places for Each Way Golf bets on selected tournaments. Each Way Extra gives you the option to increase or decrease the number of places when you are betting pre-event on the To Win Outright market on selected Golf events – add places on to your Each Way Golf bets for extra security at lower odds, or increase the price by removing places. Bet restrictions apply. For further details of how Each Way Extra works on golf click here.

✅ Bet £10 get £30 in free bets for new customers
✅ Bonus code SPORT30 can be used, but does not change the offer amount in any way
✅ For further details read our bet365 new customer offer page
✅ Early odds available each week on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour
✅ ‘Each Way Extra’ promotion where you can choose between 3, 8, 10 or 12 places each way

bet365 New Customer Offer: New Customers only. Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets. Sign up, deposit between £5 and £10 to your account and bet365 will give you three times that value in Free Bets when you place qualifying bets to the same value and they are settled. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits. Min odds/bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. T&Cs, time limits & exclusions apply. Registration required. The bonus code SPORT30 can be used during registration, but does not change the offer amount in any way. #Ad

Calum Hill 1pt EW 125/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Finally, with 2022 a write-off due to the lingering effects of nerve damage following an insect bite of all things, Calum Hill is finally fit and healthy once again and looking to revive a career that looked to be an a sharp upward trajectory following his breakthrough season the year before.

4th at the Saudi International to start 2021 was followed by 8th and 4th at Karen County Club, a course which holds some correlation to this week’s test, 8th at The Belfry, 4th at the free-scoring Fairmont St Andrews, and eventually the victory that his form had promised came at the London Club-hosted Cazoo Classic, which is another Jack Nicklaus design. The end of that season, including a debut at the Earth Course, was blighted by his injury though and it’s taken until the start of this year for him to get even remotely back on track.

At his best, the 28 year-old is the kind of player who can churn out a high percentage of greens in regulation and we’ve started to see that creep back into his game in 2023, ranking 5th on that count on his way to a 13th place finish at the Dubai Desert Classic in January and 8th in the field when recording a top-20 finish in Kenya last month.

It’s not been plain sailing this year as he’s tried to regain the sharpness required to contend at this level, however rounds of 65 in Singapore, 64 in Kenya and a pair of 66s to bookend his last outing at Steyn City hint at progress as he continues his comeback. RESULT: 3rd

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:00BST 17.4.23 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.