South Africa’s Shaun Norris will be aiming to get his season back on track with a successful title defence of the ¥210,000,000 Japan Open when it gets underway at the Sanko Golf Club in Hyogo on Thursday.
The 40-year-old clinched his career’s biggest victory 12 months ago as a final round one-under-par 70 was enough to secure him a four-stroke win over two-time winner Yuta Ikeda after compiling a record-breaking 19-under 265 total at the Biwako Country Club in Shiga.
The feat helped him climb from number 150 to 86 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
Norris has been struggling to impress since he captured the Steyn City Championship title on home soil for his maiden DP World Tour triumph in March.
He missed the cut five times in the last 10 appearances made across the globe, including the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the DP World Tour earlier this month.
On JGTO alone, he has played only five times to date with a tied-ninth at the season-opening Token Homemate Cup being his best result.
Now that Norris is back in Land of the Rising Sun for one of his favourite tournaments, he will certainly hope to bank on his impressive track record to regain his confidence.
Norris will bid to become the first player in 22 years to claim a back-to-back win since Naomichi Ozaki accomplished the feat in 2000.
This week’s Japan Open, the 20th event of the season, features arguably the strongest international field yet with 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia joining the fray as the highest-ranked golfer at world number 32.
Scott, who made the field by virtue of being in the world’s top 100, finished tied-fifth the last time he was in action in 2019.
It will also be the first time that three of the top performers of the 2020-21 season – Kim, Norris and Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent – who boast seven titles in between them being gathered in the same tournament.
Vincent, who won the Mizuno Open in May, remains the only non-Japanese winner this year.
Money leader Kazuki Higa, the only player with three victories this year, former champions Ikeda (2014, 2017), Inamori (2018, 2020) and Satoshi Kodaira (2015) will spearhead a strong local challenge in their quest to reclaim the honour from the international.