Australia's Marcus Fraser, who currently leads the merit list, will enter the Japan tournament with a narrow US$8,000 advantage over second placed Jbe Kruger of South Africa, followed by an in-form Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who took his winning haul on Asia's elite circuit to an unprecedented 14 last week.
The Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour, will offer a prize fund of 150 million Yen (approximately US$1.9 million). It will be staged at the Higashi Hirono Golf Club.
Asian Tour rookie David Lipsky of the United States, winner of the Qualifying School and HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic this year, and Prom Meesawat of Thailand, who has missed only two cuts this season, will also feature in the event including home favourite and title holder Tetsuji Hiratsuka.
Fraser, looking to become the first Australian to win the Merit crown, has yet to win a tournament this season but he will arrive in Japan in sensational form following three-top fives including a tied second place finish at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland recently which saw him overhaul long-time leader Kruger. Fraser has earned US$448,710 this year.
"I look forward to the next few weeks playing in Japan and the big events in Asia. I want to play my minimum in Asia this year like what I've done the last couple of years. I finally found some form and it has been a good," said Fraser, who placed second on the Order of Merit in 2010.
Kruger, winner of the Avantha Masters in India earlier this year, is still hopeful of becoming the first South African to win the Order of Merit and is banking on doing well in Japan again as he finished fourth in the Panasonic Open last year.
"My goal is still the same, which is to win the Order of Merit title. Every week is going to be very important from here. I'm definitely going to play more in Asia in the second half as compared to the first so it's going to be very hectic and I'm going to take it one week at a time," said the slightly-built Kruger.
The Asian Tour Media (ATM), the television arm of the Asian Tour, will also undertake the production and international distribution of the 2012 Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open. ATM will produce a two-hour Highlights Show and Asian Tour Golf Show for the tournament and broadcast the shows to over 200 countries and 650 million homes worldwide, ensuring that the best of Asian golf is accessible and viewed by a global audience.
The prestigious Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open is hosted by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, Panasonic Corporation and Japan Golf Association.