CJ Group And Zozo Recalibrate For Americanized Asian Swing

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The CJ Cup @Nine Bridges - Final Round

JEJU, SOUTH KOREA – OCTOBER 20: Justin Thomas of the United States poses with the trophy after … [+] winning the tournament during the final round of the CJ Cup @Nine Bridges at the Club at Nine Bridges on October 20, 2019 in Jeju, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

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If 2020 was just another year the PGA Tour would be touching down in South Korea this week. Coronavirus travel complications wreaked havoc on the schedule’s Asian swing with the WGC-HSBC Champions event, which would have taken place at the end of the month, cancelled outright due to Chinese government restrictions on international sporting events. Thankfully the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship did not meet the same fate with their title sponsors instead deciding that relocating their events from South Korea and Japan to America made the most business sense. 

“Although it was a difficult decision given the global pandemic, canceling the tournament was not an option for us,” explained Brian Kim, CJ Group’s director of sports marketing, via email.

The title sponsor wanted to keep the CJ Cup’s momentum and legacy intact even if that could only be accomplished by transplanting the tournament stateside. CJ Group’s top line in 2019 was $28 billion with US sales accounting for 11% of the conglomerate’s revenue, so as a silver lining the move does provide a chance to highlight their American interests.

“We thought the tournament would be an excellent tool through which we can strategically promote and raise brand awareness of our Korean food brand, Bibigo. We are airing Bibigo commercials on national TV throughout the tournament week. We will also be shooting various fun digital content featuring Korean food and the tour players. Wherever you lay your eyes on during the tournament week whether it is online or offline, you can expect to see and feel our brand presence.”

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For the past three years the CJ Cup has been staged at the Club at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island, one of Asia’s premiere layouts so when moving the tourney a key consideration was to keep the course pedigree sky high. Shadow Creek, a Tom Fazio dreamscape that was the site of “The Match,” the made-for-TV showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in 2018, fit the bill.

“It is our utmost priority to let the best golfers in the world play at the best course possible. Undoubtedly, Shadow Creek is an extremely prestigious and renowned golf club, and that is why we thought that it would be a perfect location for this year’s CJ Cup. We are thrilled to see the 2020 edition in Vegas,” added Kim.

ZOZO Championship - Final Round

INZAI, JAPAN – OCTOBER 28: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates winning the tournament on the … [+] 18th green during the final round of the Zozo Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on October 28, 2019 in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

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Next week, the Zozo Championship takes a road trip to Sherwood Country Club at the base of California’s Santa Monica Mountains.

“In our discussions with the PGA tour, our goal was clear—to find a winning solution that would see us building on the huge success of the inaugural Zozo Championship in Chiba and remaining engaged with our loyal fans,” said Megumi Hatakeyama, Zozo’s Golf Marketing Vice President via email.

“As the tour has done a great job with the return to golf through its health and safety plan, we made the decision to move our tournament to Sherwood Country Club. It has no doubt been a very difficult year for everyone, and we hope that through our tournament, it will provide our loyal fans in Japan and around the world with entertainment and world-class golf for them to enjoy through the extensive global broadcasts of our tournament.” 

The inaugural edition of the Zozo, where Tiger Woods held off home country favorite Hideki Matsuyama by three strokes to match Sam Snead’s all-time win mark, will be a tough act to follow. But with a tee sheet teeming with stars, this tournament appears to be another must watch for golf fans from Tokyo to Thousand Oaks.

“We’ll have an incredible field once again at Sherwood, with Tiger defending his title at a venue where he has also won five times previously in his own tournament. With pros like Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, and Justin Thomas headlining our event, I am convinced we will have just the right stage at Sherwood for these global golf stars to showcase their talents, and inspire and entertain our sports fans in Japan and all around the world.”

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