Molinari seeks Dunlop Phoenix defence

The big events to end the Japan Golf Tour's season continue this week with the staging of the 2010 Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Miyazaki on the southern island of Kyushu.

The time honoured event has seen some of the game's greatest winning the title. Since first played in 1973 major champions to have won the event include Johnny Miller, Hubert Green, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson, Larry Mize, Larry Nelson, Scott Simpson, Ernie Els, David Duval, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington.

In 2010 the defending champion will be Edoardo Molinari who after a brilliant season on the Challenge Tour in 2009 took his game to another level again with a playoff victory over Robert Karlsson last year.

Molinari has gone on to complete a stunning season on the European Tour where he made the Ryder Cup side and won both the Scottish Open and the Johnnie Walker Championship. The Italian is back to defend his title but he will also be joined by other international marquee players Robert Allenby, Tom Watson and Robert Karlsson.

While some of the international visitors provide the field with world ranking strength, the leading Japan Tour players will be keen to put some balance into the ledger in terms of their own players winning the event.

Since 1996 only three Japan Golf Tour regulars have been able to win the event, the last coming in 2008 when Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng took the title when narrowly defeating Ryo Ishikawa.

Ishikawa comes off a victory last week at the Visa Taiheiyo tournament and will be keen to win this week and move ahead of the current number one on this year's Japan Tour money list Kyung Tae Kim.

Kim has just completed seven top tens in succession and amongst those are two victories. The 24 year old Korean is sure to be a factor again and the battle between he and Ishikawa might yet develop into a feature of the week. He was 7th last year in this event.

Despite his outstanding success in Japan over the last ten years or so and that he is having yet another great season there this year, Australian Brendan Jones has not really performed well in the tournament. He has a best of 14th in all of the times he has played. He is currently 6th on the money list this season however after his runner up finish to Ishikawa last season and could well improve on his previous best.

Australasians aside from Allenby and Jones who get a start in this restricted field (84 players) event are David Smail, Paul Sheehan, Steve Conran and Eddie Lee. Lee is currently 69th on the money list and needs a good finish either this or next week to secure his status for 2010.

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