Just one month into 2024 and rookie professional Kazuma Kobori has ticked off one of his major goals for the year.
He wanted to get to Christmas will two victories on his resume.
At the Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Links starting today, he can keep working on another goal that will set up his future in the game – finishing in the top three on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
With back-to-back victories at Webex Players Series Murray River and Victoria, the 22-year-old New Zealander has rocketed to No.2 in this season’s OOM standings, trailing only Min Woo Lee, to be well on the way to earning a DP World Tour card for 2024/25.
The Vic Open, with double OOM points on offer compared to a regular Tour event, and the New Zealand Open, with quadruple points like the Australian PGA and Australian Open, are big ticket items on the February schedule for Kobori and the rest of the field as they chase the end-of-season pot of gold to progress their careers.
Whoever finishes at No.1 will also snare an Open Championship berth at Royal Troon in July.
Kobori said one of his premier goals for 2024 was to grab two victories – and even he’s a little bit surprised it has happened so soon.
“At the start, my expectations about turning pro was about trying to make cuts, try to get all four rounds in, because it’s all about experience,” he said.
“And if you can play four rounds a week over two weeks, then you’re getting double the experience, right?
“So that was my goal going in and then at the Vic PGA I got close and I thought ‘I can do it for real, be in contention week in, week out’.
“It feels great to get two wins on the board early.
“I set some goals for the New Year, what I wanted to get out of the rest of the season and one of them was getting two wins specifically.
“The Order of Merit was also on that goals list, to get in the top three, and now I’m second. I’ll just keep going and see where I finish up at the end.”
What has attracted plenty of attention in Kobori’s winning run in Australia, which started at last year’s Qualifying School in Moonah Links, is his exceptional putting which came to the fore again at the weekend at Rosebud Country Club where his red-hot blade was the prime reason he held on for a one-shot win.
But has Kobori always been an excellent putter? Not so, said the man who has jumped almost 600 places on the Official World Golf Ranking since the start of January.
“I never used to be a good putter, I never practised it,” he said.
“But obviously I don’t hit the ball a long way, so I’ve got to do something to make up for that.
“That’s when I started practising my putting a little bit.
“I was a streaky putter in my junior days; I would have hot rounds and cold rounds.”
With everyone now well aware of what he is capable of achieving, Kobori will start his Vic Open campaign alongside another Kiwi, defending champion Michael Hendry, on the Creek course on Thursday morning before heading over to the Beach course on Friday afternoon.
“I’m just trying to conserve as much energy as possible because being in contention two weeks in a row is pretty draining,” he said after his pro-am round.
Entry to the Vic Open is free on all four days.
The only place to watch every upcoming event on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia live is on Fox Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo.