China's Ashun Wu has finished second on the course
Adri Arnaus looks ripe for win number two
Lucas Herbert likes a Nicklaus test in the trees
It's the start of a new half-century for the DP World Tour as it debuts in Japan this week, the 51st country the circuit has visited since its formal start in the early 1970s.
As with all these matters, this first-time visit is something of a fudge since the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Event also counted, but there you have it - both co-sanctioning and scheduling are, by their very nature, fudges designed to help everyone potter along a little bit better than before.
Ernie Els is in the field which is otherwise of standard DP World Tour level with lots of Japan Tour stalwarts including plenty of youngsters for whom the week offers a great opportunity.
The course in Omitama is the PGM Ishioka GC, a parkland layout created in the early 1990s by the Jack Nicklaus Design group.
The tree-lined fairways are part of the Kogama Forest and are said to be narrower than is typical of Nicklaus courses.
The putting surfaces are large, and feature shaping and greenside bunkering that is typical of the 18-time major winner's designs in that distance control with iron play will be tested.
It's not the longest layout and both the front and back nine have two par-4s in the first three holes that are less than 400 yards in length.
Prior to becoming the very fine winner of four titles on the DP World Tour, China's Ashun Wu had proved himself with two victories in Japan.
He first had a crack at the country's circuit in 2010 and struggled, but when he returned two years later the top 10s started to rack up and the first win came in the Toshin Golf Tournament, soon followed by fourth place in the Japan Open.
A year later he very nearly defended that first win, shortly before adding a second triumph in the Heiwa PGM Championship.
By 2015 he was a winner of his home Open, when it was on the DP World Tour and therefore earned him a shot at Europe, but he persisted with Japan and very nearly won at Ishioka in the confusingly titled (and caps lock on) HONMA TOURWORLD CUP AT TROPHIA GOLF.
As spotted above, with that decent defence of his first win, Wu does tend to be sparked by certain courses so we should take note of that second place.
He'll arrive in a country with good memories a little irked to have missed the cut at the Kenya Open when defending that title, but his form has been solid this season, taking in ninth at the South African Open, T20th at both the Dubai Desert Classic and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and T12th in the Singapore Classic.
The tight nature of the track won't faze the winner of that Kenya Open at Muthaiga either.
I'm not sure I'd have Adri Arnaus at this price this week.
He's very often much shorter in fields of this quality which suggests he's in poor form and I'm really not sure he is.
He ended 2022 with ninth in the DP World Tour Championship (when top four through 36 holes).
He was T13th at the Dubai Desert Classic (when fourth after 36 and 54 holes).
He was sixth at the Ras al Khaimah Championship.
He carded a 65 to close the Kenya Open (T30th).
And he was second at the SDC Championship two starts ago.
In-between those efforts he has missed cuts in Abu Dhabi, Singapore and last time out in South Africa.
That recent runner-up finish came at Nicklaus's St Francis Links and he has also been second at Nicklaus' Pecanwood.
And for a fellow whose most obvious quality is his big-hitting he does rather like playing between trees.
He's been second at Valderrama, second and fourth at Club de Campo in Madrid, sixth and ninth at Crans, second at Karen, and his first DP World Tour win came at PGA Catalunya.
I can't leave Lucas Herbert out given the fondness he has shown for another Jack Nicklaus parkland design among the trees.
The Aussie arrived at Mount Juliet for the 2021 Irish Open having recently finished T18th at Muirfield Village in the Memorial Tournament - another Nicklaus track and he'd spent much of the week in the top 10.
He took an instant liking to the Golden Bear's Mount Juliet, got off to a flier with a 64 that earned him the lead and rounds of 67-70-68 closed out a three-shot victory.
A year later he returned to card 69-68-68-71 and claimed ninth.
He reached the knockout stages of the recent WGC Dell Match Play and also made the cut last week at Harbour Town in the RBC Heritage.
Jetlag might be a concern, but Harbour Town is also, of course, yet another Nicklaus course, albeit his first and alongside Pete Dye.
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