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Five Things to Know: Keita Nakajima

Five Things to Know: Keita Nakajima

In his rookie campaign, Keita Nakajima proved he is one to watch at the top echelons of the professional game as the former World Number One amateur claimed his maiden DP World Tour title at the Hero Indian Open.

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Keita Nakajima was making just his 11th DP World Tour appearance at the Hero Indian Open

The 23-year-old Japanese cruised to a wire-to-wire victory at DLF G&CC, historically one of the toughest examinations on the DP World Tour, as a closing one-over-par 73 handed him a four-shot victory in New Delhi.

As a result, in what was just his 11th start on golf’s global Tour and his eighth since turning professional in 2022, Nakajima becomes just the fifth Japanese winner, emulating Isao Aoki, Hideki Matsuyama, Ryo Hisatsune and Rikuya Hoshino.

Here are five things to know about the sixth first-time winner on the 2024 Race to Dubai.

Amateur history-maker

Nakajima set a record with 87 weeks atop the World Amateur Golf Ranking between 2020 and 2022, far surpassing the previous record of 60 held by Jon Rahm. He also made further history by becoming the first men’s player to win the Mark H. McCormack medal twice as the world’s top men’s amateur golfer in 2021 and 2022. Established in 2007, the McCormack Medal winner – presented annually by The R&A – receives exemptions into the U.S. Open and The Open Championship until they turn professional. He also won the 2021 Australian Amateur, 2021 Japanese Amateur, 2021 Asia Pacific Amateur Championship and beat a field full of professionals to win the Panasonic Open on the Japan Golf Tour.

Major experience

Victory in the 2021 Asia-Pacific Amateur at Dubai Creek Resort earned Nakajima his debut Major appearance at the 2022 Masters Tournament. After an impressive opening-round 72, he ultimately went on to miss the cut at Augusta National after carding a 79 in the second round. That was the first of three Major appearances in 2022, with his victory in the Middle East also earning him a spot in The 150th Open at St Andrews, while he also teed it up in the U.S. Open at The Country Club that same year as the then Number One-ranked amateur.  His fourth Major start came most recently at last year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. While he is yet to make the cut, the signs are that is just a matter of time as he now climbs the paid ranks.


After success in his homeland, he is now a winner on the global stage

As result of a pathway formed with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, the Japanese star is competing on the DP World Tour this season after finishing top of last season’s Order of Merit in his homeland where he won on three occasions. In his first start of the campaign, he finished in a tie for fourth at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and while he then missed cuts in Bahrain and South Africa, he has now lifted silverware on his first start at the Hero Indian Open. With the victory he vaults to 13th on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex and to the top of the Asian Swing standings, with three counting events scheduled still to play. He is one of seven Japanese players with DP World Tour status in the 2024 Race to Dubai.

Inspired by Woods but motivated by Matsuyama

In an interview with the PGA TOUR, Nakajima spoke of how Tiger Woods helped influence his drive to pursue a career in the game. “Whenever I would watch the PGA TOUR on TV, I’d always see Tiger Woods playing and since then, probably around the time I was in junior high school, I have always wanted to become a professional golfer,” he said. However, it is Hideki Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese player to win the Green Jacket in 2021, who has long been the idol he has looked up to, while he is close with fellow DP World Tour member Takumi Kanya, who won the Mark H. McCormack Medal in 2020.

PGA TOUR ambition

With 10 PGA TOUR cards available via the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex to the highest finishers not already exempt, Nakajima will like so many other golfers hope to boost his development by becoming a dual member. Victory at the weekend has boosted his hopes of emulating compatriot Hisatsune in plying his trade on both sides of the Atlantic. In his rookie season last year, Hisatsune enjoyed a breakout year as he won in France and became the first Japanese player to be named Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year. With Hoshino also riding high in second place on the season-long rankings this year, Japanese golf is enjoying a fine period in time.

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