After a week off, our last-minute betting tips are back and we are previewing this week’s ZOZO Championship.
History was made last weekend at the CJ Cup as Rory McIlroy won his twentieth PGA Tour title. Despite a -10 final round from Collin Morikawa, McIlroy held his nerve to win by one shot.
This week the PGA Tour heads over to the Land of the Rising Sun and makes only its second-ever visit to Japan. It’s another return to Japan after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and many will be hoping that the drama and excitement from the men’s golf competition will be replicated here.
The ZOZO Championship will be held at the Accordia Narashino Country Club. It’s a par 70 course that measures just over 7,000 yards in length. It’s a unique layout as the course contains three par 5s and five par 3s.
Being short by modern standards, the length shouldn’t play much of a part this week, instead, we will be wanting to pick golfers who are accurate, can land the ball in the right spots before hopefully going on to make birdie. Accordia is a tight course with trees lined up on each side of the fairway, therefore accuracy off the tee is going to be vital and was a key metric behind Tiger Woods victory here in 2019.
This week is a no-cut event meaning that whoever you pick will have the luxury of playing four rounds. It’s a relatively small field with only 78 players teeing it up. The field is led by Olympic Champion Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, and local hero Hideki Matsuyama.
We will be looking to bounce back after a poor Shriners tournament where each of our selections failed to make the cut.
MAIN BET: Hideki Matsuyama +1200
The betting favorites for the tournament are the Olympic gold and silver medalists, Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa who are priced at +550 and +700. Both Schauffelle and Morikawa are class players and if on their game will be incredibly difficult to beat, however, I think their odds are just too short and I would prefer to back the homecoming king in Hideki Matsuyama at better odds.
Matsuyama is struggling on the greens at the moment but hopefully returning back to Japan can breathe new life into the flat stick. The rest of his game is looking in good nick and he gave himself plenty of looks last week without getting the putts to drop.
Matsuyama won eight times when based in Japan so he clearly does play well in front of his home fans. Last year on Tour, Matsuyama finished 15th in strokes gained from tee to green and 17th in strokes gained through approach to the green. Matsuyama clearly has the game to win this week we just need that putter to get hot.
DARK HORSE: Alexander Noren +2800
Alexander Noren is one of these golfers whose name is often in and around the top end of the leaderboard but is a golfer that constantly flies under the radar. Before moving stateside Noren was a prolific winner on the European Tour winning ten times. He is yet to win on the PGA Tour but his time won’t be too far away.
Noren had a good end to last season, finishing T4 at the Northern Trust and T9 at the BMW Championship. He started his season at last week’s CJ Cup and finished a respectable 59th. Hopefully with the cobwebs dusted off, he can mount a challenge this week.
Two things I like about Noren are firstly his driving accuracy. Over the last 24 rounds, Noren leads the field in driving accuracy. If he can maintain his level he should be setting himself up well on each hole outside of the par 3s. The other stat that jumps out is that Noren is at home on Bentgrass greens.
The tournament will be played this week on a Bentgrass putting surface and it’s a common grass found on the PGA Tour. Noren leads the field this week in putting efficiencies on Bentgrass over the last 24 rounds. Everything is set up for Noren to have a great week and he is worthy of our dark horse selection. For place players, Noren is priced at +500 for a top 5 and +200 for a top 10.
LONG SHOT: Lanto Griffin +5500
This is a strange tournament as over a quarter of the holes on the course will be par 3s. Lanto Griffin is third in the field this week in strokes gained specifically on par 3 holes which is a stat that has a real value this week.
Griffin had a good week last week finishing T6th at the CJ Cup.
Last season Griffin had some good stats in terms of strokes gained through an approach where he finished 37th on Tour and 34th through strokes gained through the putter. Griffin has the game to do well this week, and I am buoyed that he enters this week in some good form. I think odds of +5500 could be on the large side and I really like his odds of +900 for a top 5 and +900 for a top 10 finish.