Golf: NZPGA lures top Japanese talent to Queenstown

The international appeal of the NZPGA Championship has been highlighted with Japan's Toshinori Muto confirmed for February's event in Queenstown. Photo / Getty Images.
The international appeal of the NZPGA Championship has been highlighted with Japan's Toshinori Muto confirmed for February's event in Queenstown. Photo / Getty Images.

The international appeal of the NZPGA Championship has been highlighted with Japan's Toshinori Muto confirmed for February's event in Queenstown.

The 34-year-old is the latest Japan Tour player to sign up for next year's event at The Hills. Others include regular Japan tour contenders Brendan Jones (Australia) and David Smail (New Zealand) as well as Kevin Huang (China) and Michael Hendry (New Zealand) who have both secured their tour cards for next year.

They will also join the likes of three-time US Open champion Hale Irwin, Australian Peter O'Malley and New Zealand professionals Mark Brown and Ryan Fox.

Muto has had a good year in 2012, picking up six top-10 finishes on the Japan Tour, including victory at the Kansai Open Golf Championship, his fifth career title on the tour. He also competed well at the 2012 Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and WGC-HSBC Champions events.

Muto's impressive season has seen him climb to 103 in the world rankings, ahead of the likes of Retief Goosen, Johnson Wagner and Paul Casey.

Described as one of the best shot-makers on the Japan Tour, Muto has become a bit of a specialist at come-from-behind victories. Three of his five tour titles have been secured after trailing heading into the final day.

Muto has added the NZPGA Championship to his schedule on the recommendation of Brendan Jones.

"Brendan told me what a great tournament this is, how beautiful Queenstown is and how much he enjoyed his time in New Zealand,'' Muto said.

"I am really looking forward to coming to New Zealand and experiencing this for myself.''
Jones has quickly become a leading advocate of the NZPGA Championship, after playing at The Hills in 2012. He is now ranked 73rd in the world, marking him as the player to beat in Queenstown next year.

"I have spoken with a few players on the Japan Tour about it and told them what a great event it was this year and that it is only going to get better,'' Jones said.

"I personally think Toshi is one of the best players on the Japan Golf Tour and is a consistent winner on tour. He is also one of the nicest guys on tour so I think the tournament will be better with him in the field.''

- APNZ

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