12 Mar 2024

Media Release:

Breakout Kiwi star Kazuma Kobori is ready to rub shoulders with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth at this year’s Open Championship after being officially declared the 2023/2024 Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit champion.

A three-time winner since January after earning his Tour card by winning Qualifying School last April, Kobori has an unassailable lead with just one event remaining, this week’s The National Tournament presented by BMW at The National Golf Club.

While six other players are still in the hunt for the final two DP World Tour cards, Kobori can tee it up from Thursday safe in the knowledge that he will have status when the 2025 DP World Tour commences with the Australian PGA Championship from November 21-24.

It is a rapid ascension for a 22-year-old who only turned professional at the start of November and who, midway through the season, was concerned that he wouldn’t keep his card.

But the golf world is soon to open up to him, including an exemption to the 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon in July.

“I was just trying to get the DP World Tour card for next year and then my manager called me a couple of days after NZ Open and said that I had The Open sealed up too,” said Kobori.

“That’s pretty cool. For me, it was a bit of a bonus because I actually didn’t know that was part of the deal.

“Needless to say, I’ll take it.”

Given that he didn’t take up golf seriously until he was 12 years of age, Kobori’s earliest memories of major championships are post-2010, when McIlroy and Spieth were at their most dominant.

He is now coming to terms with the fact that he will play The Open Championship alongside them in just four months’ time.

“Obviously Tiger Woods was pretty dominant at the major championships but I started golf a bit later, when I was 10. Properly started playing when I was 12 so 2010 onwards, the guys playing major championships, those really stuck to me,” he added.

“Rory, Jordan Spieth winning The Open Championship, stuff like that.

“To be able to play in that tournament myself is something that I am really looking forward to.”
 
Changing seasons
 
Truth be told, the 2023/2024 Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia season was Kobori’s back-up plan.

With a category secured at Q School, Kobori’s major focus was the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in October.

The week prior, he was individual medallist at the Eisenhower Trophy in Abu Dhabi and, after one round at Royal Melbourne, was leading by two strokes.

A win that week would have earned Kobori a start at both The Open and The Masters, provided he retained his amateur status.

He would ultimately finish sixth, turn pro three days later and finish tied for ninth in his first start at the Queensland PGA Championship at Nudgee.

Two weeks later he squandered a six-stroke lead on the final day of the Victorian PGA Championship and, after missed cuts at both the Australian PGA and Australian Open, took a reality check heading into Christmas.

“This was the plan, and the best possible outcome, if you will. That being said, it’s not how I thought it would go at all,” Kobori conceded.

“After the Aus Open I was sitting 38th or something on the Order of Merit and thinking, This is pretty brutal if I’m going to try and keep my card.”

As others took a Christmas break, Kobori went to work.

After a poor finish at the Heritage Classic to start 2024 he won three of the next four tournaments, matching Tiger Woods’ lofty mark of three wins in his first 10 starts as a professional.

Although a missed cut at the New Zealand Open delayed confirmation if only for a couple of days, Kobori has now advanced further down his professional golf pathway than he could have imagined only a few months earlier.

“It’s fantastic; it’s a dream come true,” he said of his Order of Merit rewards.

“I’ll be 23 by the time I start my DP World Tour season properly but that’s way further ahead of my timeline than I could have ever imagined.

“This is the pathway that I planned out for myself but it’s gone much more quickly than I had thought.”

 

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Photo: Monica Marchesani/PGA of Australia

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