ZOZO Championship Odds, Picks & Preview
Wednesday, October 20th, 2021
For just the second time, a sanctioned PGA Tour event will take place in Japan for the third-annual ZOZO Championship. The tournament is co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and the Japan Golf Tour. And this time we bring you the latest ZOZO Championship Odds and picks courtesy of our partner Jazz Sport.
The event began in 2019 and was held at Narashino Country Club in the Greater Tokyo Area of Japan. That event was won by Tiger Woods, in his 82nd and most recent PGA Tour victory. Golf enthusiasts hope it’s not his last win, but his future is unknown after a serious car accident in February 2021. Woods won that event by three strokes over Hideki Matsuyama, tying him with Sam Snead for the most wins in PGA Tour history.
The 2020 version of the event was moved to Sherwood Country Club in Lake Sherwood, California due to travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventual 2020-21 FedEx Cup Champion Patrick Cantlay won that event by one stroke over both Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas.
The event returns to Narashino this year for the third tournament of a deal that runs through at least 2025.
The event is a 78-player invitation-only, no-cut event. It consists of the top-60 available PGA Tour players from the previous season’s FedEx Cup standings, the top seven players in the Japan Golf Tour money list through the Bridgestone Open, the top-three players from the Bridgestone Open, and eight sponsor exemptions.
Just 24 of the 78 players from the 2019 edition are here this year, so it will give plenty of new golfers experience in a no-cut event with a better possible chance of an upset winner.
The Course – Narashino Country Club
Narashino Country Club is located in Inzai in the Chiba Prefecture of Japan, which is about an hour away from the nation’s capital of Tokyo. Despite the ZOZO Championship being a recent event, the course does have a rich history. It played host to the 1968 Japan PGA Championship and the 1977 Japan Open Golf Championship. International stars also played and won at Narashino in the now-defunct Suntory Open, which was held at Narashino from 1974-1997. Golf legends Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros are among those who have won events here.
The course itself is a par-72, 7,224-yard track. Despite being a par-72 course, it contains more variety than most, as it features three par-3 holes on the front nine (par 35), and three par-5 holes on the back nine (par 37). The finishing stretch features one of each—a par-3 187-yard hole at No. 16, a 455-yard par 4 at 17, and finishing with a long 593-yard par 5 on 18 that will test a player’s driving ability and will really need to fire a strong second shot in order to go up and down for a birdie chance.
Another unique aspect of the course is that Narashino—like many courses in Japan—feature two greens per hole. This is done so the greens can be rotated and kept in good shape with different grass types during the changing seasons. For tournament purposes, both greens may be used to provide a new challenge or, as the case was in 2019, using a different green due to some being unplayable due to rain.
But let’s get into what you want, the latest ZOZO Championship Odds and picks!
Gold Medalist Schauffele and Heritage Players Morikawa and Matsuyama Are the Favorites
Three players who won three of the biggest events in 2021 are atop the ZOZO Championship Odds board
Collin Morikawa, who is American but has Japanese heritage, won The Open Championship over the summer and is once again sizzling—having finished 4-0-1 for the U.S. team at the Ryder Cup and then finished second at the CJ Cup last week in Las Vegas after shooting at 62 in the final round on Sunday. Morikawa is the betting favorite here at +600.
Morikawa, who was 19th at the 2019 ZOZO Championship, returns to Japan for the fifth time since 2016, and the first since losing out in a playoff for the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in August.
“I’ve pretty much come back once a year almost, and it’s just getting better and better,” Morikawa said.
He’s also looking forward to a full gallery at Narishino—something he was unable to experience at the Kasumigaseki Country Club for the Olympics, as the Games were contested without any fans due to COVID-19 precautions.
“These are some of the best fans; I was here earlier for the Olympics, and we didn’t have anyone and it just felt dull,” Morikawa added. “Even though it was the Olympics and we knew what we were playing for, it just—it just has a different feeling when you have fans. I remember my first tee shot out here two years ago when there were fans on stools and lined up five, six-people deep. They would cheer for you walking to the tee boxes, hitting every tee shot whether it’s good or bad.”
Morikawa has a game that suits the course well, as he’s long and straight off the tee. He also made just five bogeys here in 2019 (second among all golfers in that event), so if he can continue to limit the mistakes but capitalize on more birdie opportunities, he should be in contention on Sunday.
Xander Schauffele won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and seems to play his best in no-cut events, which puts him right behind Morikawa at +650 to win the ZOZO Championship Odds board. He was tied for 18th at The CJ Cup last week—also a no-cut event—after firing four under-par rounds, including a 63 on Sunday.
Schauffele was in contention after three rounds here in 2019, sitting at -11 after 54 holes but ended up tied for 10th after a 72 on Sunday. He still finished tied for 10th and had 20 birdies in the tournament, which was tied for second-most in the event.
As it was publicized during the Olympics, Schauffele’s grandparents live in Japan, so he’s looking forward to competing in the country where he has some heritage.
“Everybody knows the close affinity that my family and I have with Japan,” Schauffele said. “Also, winning the Olympic Games gold medal in Tokyo has only reinforced my love for Japan, and I look forward to coming back and challenging for the title at Narashino.”
While Schauffele has great stats, the Olympic gold medal, and a 3-1 record in the 2021 Ryder Cup, he hasn’t been entirely pleased with his PGA Tour performance in the past two years, as he is winless in that span. He won twice in 2019—the WGC-HSBC Champions event and the Sentry Tournament of Champions and lost in playoffs at both of those events in 2020.
“I feel not that I failed on the PGA Tour season, but I didn’t really accomplish all that I wanted to. …But I was able to step up to the plate in tournaments that don’t count for the PGA Tour—it’s an interesting feeling,” Scauffele explained. “So, a weird space that I’m in mentally, but overall, I think celebrating the Ryder Cup win with my teammates sort of got me over the edge of feeling like I failed this season.”
Hideki Matsuyama (+1400) is the other favored golfer this weekend, as he is a native of Japan, won the Masters in 2021, and finished second here to Tiger Woods in 2019.
This will be the first time that his home-country fans will be able to cheer him on the course after becoming a Masters champion, as the Olympics were contested with no fans. He also left there disappointed, missing a birdie attempt on No. 18 that would’ve secured a bronze medal, and he didn’t come out on top in a seven-way playoff for bronze.
“After finishing second behind Tiger Woods in 2019, my goal will be to finish one better when we return to [Narashino],” Matsuyama said. “Playing at home is always a treat, as I’m competing in the U.S. for most parts of the year. Being the only PGA Tour tournament in Japan, I hope to become the first golfer to win this event, and I will give it everything that I’ve got to challenge for a victory.”
He was second on tour last season in approach proximity from 125-150 yards out and 17th overall in strokes gained: approach. That ability helped him here in 2019 and could do so again. He struggled for much of the summer and fall, and his results in Las Vegas were not great—tied for 67th at the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open and tied for 59th at the CJ Cup—but he did start the 2021-22 PGA Tour season well with a sixth-place finish at the Fortinet Championship last month.
Will Zalatoris, Tommy Fleetwood and more
Looking further down the field, Will Zalatoris is still popular among the oddsmakers, sitting at +1500 to win his first event on the PGA Tour. He missed the cut in his last event two weeks ago at the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open, but that was just his third MC in 2021. He took a week off from the CJ Cup and should be rested going into this event. Last season’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year shined in big events, finishing second at the Masters and eighth at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Before the missed cut, his 2021-22 season started well with top-15 finishes in the first two events, including shooting a course-record 61 in the second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood is at +2000, and he’s been playing well on both the PGA Tour and European Tour over the past few months. After missing the cut at the PGA Championship in May, Fleetwood has six top-30 finishes between both tours, including a seventh against a strong field at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship three weeks ago. Fleetwood is used to playing all over the world, and he was in both the 2019 ZOZO Championship and the Olympic tournament this summer.
“Those were fantastic experiences, and I’m looking forward to being in Japan again,” Fleetwood said. “My game is in a great place, and I love the golf course and feel very confident of my chances at getting a win.”
After shooting over par in the opening round, Fleetwood recovered to shoot three rounds in the 60s while finishing 22nd here two years ago. Fleetwood has played in the U.S., Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, and Japan in the last four months and hasn’t missed a cut. It feels like he’s in a similar spot Rory McIlroy was in before he broke through and won last week, as Fleetwood is poised to end his two-year winning drought at any point.
Si Woo Kim (+2500) is coming off a strong run in the late summer and early fall, highlighted by a second-place finish at the Wyndham Championship. His 29th at the BMW Championship narrowly left him out of the Tour Championship field, but he has an 11th place and eighth-place finish to show after that. He also overcame shooting an opening-round 76 here in 2019 to finish tied for 37th after his next three rounds were in the 60s.
Rickie Fowler (+2500) is worth a look after he owned a two-shot lead going into the final round of the CJ Cup last week before settling for a third-place finish behind Rory McIlroy and Morikawa. Fowler didn’t qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, but he’s back in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings after his performance last week. His putter was off on Sunday last week in shooting a 71, so if he can get that figured out in time, perhaps he can make a run here in Japan, where he also has a family history.
“Japan plays a unique part in my own personal family history, so being able to go back there and playing in front of those fans will be something very special to me and my family,” Fowler said. “I would especially love to win this one for my grandpa, Tanaka, who introduced me to the game of golf.”
Jhonattan Vegas (+3500) has only played in one tournament so far in the new season, but that was a solid 14th place finish at the CJ Cup last week. The veteran started slow last season, but a second-place finish at the Puerto Rico Open in February kicked off a run that included a ninth at the Byron Nelson and then tying for runner-up at both the Palmetto Championship in June and the 3M Open in July.
Long Shots for the ZOZO Championship
Olympic bronze medalist C.T. Pan of Taiwan returns to Japan as a +4500 pick here after surviving a seven-way playoff to take third in Tokyo. He also played in this event in 2019, so he’s familiar with the course, and his first two events of the 2021-22 PGA Tour season netted fruitful results—11th at the Fortinet Championship and a sixth-place tie at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Takumi Kanaya (+5500) has plenty of experience on the Japan Tour after turning pro just over a year ago, and prior to that, he was the No. 1-ranked amateur golfer in the world. In his first 12 months on the Japan Tour, he’s finished in the top 10 in half of his tournaments and won twice (to go along with another pro win while still an amateur). While he will be tested by a field that’s more difficult than what he’s used to on the Japan Tour, he has the ability to be able to surprise some people this weekend.
Roger Sloan (+10000) has finishes of 16th or better in four of his last seven starts, and with those results at the long odds, it’s worth a look here against a field that has some stars but lacks overall depth.
As title sponsor of the event, ZOZO says it “strives to continue delivering excitement and hope to the world through the positive power of golf.” Over the last two years, one charity initiative has been to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Japan via the Public Resource Foundation.
Donations are also made to the First Tee of Japan, which supports youth education through golf in an effort to grow the game on an international scale. During last year’s event at Sherwood, ZOZO contributed to the local Thousand Oaks community through Sherwood Cares, which is the official charity partner of the Sherwood Country Club.
2021 ZOZO Championship Odds
With the way he’s played the last few weeks, it’s hard not to like Morikawa this week, even though an overwhelming favorite hasn’t won often on the PGA Tour in recent months. Here are the latest ZOZO Championship Odds.
|GOLFER||2021 ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS TO WIN|
|Si Woo Kim||+2500|
|Jhonattan Vegas / Cameron Tringale / Keegan Bradley||+3500|
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