Thousand Oaks, California, October 20: Reigning Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit champion Naoki Sekito will head into this week’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD in an upbeat mood, having put his game in good order for his PGA TOUR debut at the Sherwood Country Club.
The 23-year-old Japanese gained momentum from winning the Hiroden Open Golf tournament in Hiroshima last week, peaking just in time for the ZOZO Championship that is making a one-year move to the United States due to logistical issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sekito, who enjoyed two top-10 finishes in three starts on the Asian Tour earlier this season, will feature in the elite 78-man field headlined by defending champion Tiger Woods, Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, Major champions Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa.
Asian Tour standouts Jazz Janewattananond and Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand, South African Shaun Norris, Australian Brad Kennedy as well as Mikumu Horikawa and Rikuya Hoshino of Japan will also tee up in the highly rated event that became the first ever PGA TOUR-sanctioned event in Japan last year.
“I have been lucky to continue playing in Japan during these unprecedented times. I have been playing a mixture of local events in Hiroshima, as well as events on the Japan Tour and the AbemaTV Tour.
“I was fortunate enough to win an event in July and then another event last week. I am very honoured and thankful to receive a sponsor’s invite to play the ZOZO Championship,” said Sekito, whose brother Yuji, also a professional golfer, will be on the bag for him this week.
After turning professional in December 2017, Sekito plied his trade on the ADT before claiming his first professional victory in Malaysia in 2019. He would secure one more victory and five other top-10s to clinch the 2019 ADT Order of Merit crown, becoming the first ever Japanese to accomplish the feat on the region’s secondary circuit.
“My sponsors held a gathering for me in my hometown before I flew here and about 70 to 80 people whom I have known from a young age attended. It was nice to see all of them and I took the opportunity to thank them for helping me throughout my career. I also met the Mayor of my hometown which was very cool.”
“I am really excited about this week. I look forward to playing in the same tournament as Tiger and hopefully I can bump into him at the range or in the clubhouse,” added Sekito, who hails from Fukuyama, a city in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.
Woods, who won his record-tying 82nd PGA TOUR title at last year’s ZOZO Championship, will be back to defend against a field full of stars at the 72-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed course, one of his favourite hunting grounds where he had won his Hero World Challenge five times.