It wasn’t to be for my four tips last week - two were very disappointing and missed the cut by some way and Kawamura and Besseling both finished T37 at +3. By no means not bad efforts around the brutal test of Valderrama that even made the World Number 1 Jon Rahm look rather average at times.

The tournament is a clear favourite of mine and it did not disappoint. Eventual winner Matt Fitzpatrick at 14/1 was superb in his last round. 16 pars and 2 birdies were more than enough to ease to victory when many around him were crumbling to the tests that the course kept offering up to the players.

The ZOZO Championship Preview

Onto this week, where we find ourselves returning to the Accordia Golf Narashino CC in Chiba, Japan for the 3rd edition of The ZOZO Championship after it was played at Sherwood CC last year due to Covid-19 restrictions in Japan at the time. This week again, like last week we have a 78 man, no cut event. Below is a list of the 2 winners to date of this Championship:

  • 2019 Tiger Woods (Narashino CC) -19
  • 2020 Patrick Cantlay (Sherwood CC) -15

The lack of PGA Tour events on this course makes predicting a win this week a tough challenge.

Key Details of Narashino CC:

  • Par 70; 5 Par 3s, 10 Par 4s, 3 Par 5s
  • 7041 yards in length
  • Parkland/Tree lined course, dog legs on approx. 6 holes
  • Kinya Fujita design
  • 2 greens per hole, 1 green being Bentgrass and 1 green being a mixture of Bermuda/Zoysia grass. Bentgrass green will be used this week just like in 2019.
  • Loads of bunkers guarding smaller than average greens

Five, yes five, Par 3s on an unusual Par 70 set up represents a different test to what players are used to week-in week-out on Tour.

The Par 4s fit this trend too, five of them are under 425 yards deeming them very scorable but then the other five all measure over 480 yards. Five holes you definitely would take par and run to the next tee on.

Unfortunately, in 2019 no Strokes Gained data was recorded. However, I have been able to find some decent stats below from the winner in 2019 and for the runner up to give us a good indication of what will be needed to succeed this week.

2019 winner Tiger Woods (-19)

  • T7 Driving Accuracy
  • T3 Greens in Reg.
  • T13 Sand Saves
  • 1st Putting Ave.            
  • 1st Par 3 Birdies or Better
  • T1 Par 4 Birdies or Better          

2019 runner up Hideki Matsuyama (-16)

  • T15 Driving Accuracy    
  • T6 Greens in Reg.         
  • T15 Sand Saves            
  • 2nd Putting Ave.
  • T6 Par 3 Birdies or Better          
  • T3 Par 4 Birdies or Better

Stats to consider this week:

  • Good OTT game
  • Ball strikers (SG: APP)
  • Scrambling game (Especially from bunkers)
  • Putting Averages

To perform well here, it will test various elements of the players games. A good tee shot required not only to maximise good approach opportunities, but to navigate the various dog legs whilst moving the ball both ways in the process.

An accurate ball striking week is needed to find the putting surfaces a good three quarters of the time. An ability to get up and down successfully from the various deep bunkers this course holds as its defence and a sharp week with the flat stick as seen here in 2019.

The ZOZO Championship Betting Odds

 

I am not going to lie, excluding the top 4 in the betting market, the rest of the field is not the best by any stretch of imagination and it is clearly reflective of players unwillingness to travel due to continued Covid restrictions.

At the top of the market we see Xander Schauffele (13/2) and Colin Morikawa (15/2). There are no surprises to see these 2 studs of the game at the front of proceedings.

Xander is returning to the country that he won his notorious Gold Medal for the USA Team at this year’s Olympics. No doubt he will always hold great memories of Japan and the American clearly has an eye for the typical layout of Japanese golf courses. He also has an eye for the no cut events the Tour has to offer, the no fear golf is clearly right up is street and for me is a willing favourite this week.

Morikawa at second favourite is in great form with a 2nd at his affiliated course last week where he finished one behind eventual winner Rory McIlroy at -24. With his razor sharp iron game and his streakiness with the putter, he could well continue that form this week.

A big jump then in the market up to (16/1) where we find home favourite Hideki Matsuyama. Deki has started this year with three made cuts and best finish of T6. Gaining strokes in all departments each week apart from his putting. To figure here this week, he will have to change this as he sure did in 2019.

A jump then to England’s challenge this week in Tommy Fleetwood (25/1), the ball striking master of Joaquin Niemann (28/1) and the resurgent Rickie Fowler (30/1). I am happy to leave this range alone as inconsistency is the downfall of all three of these individuals.

Just before I go into my tips for the week, the best of the rest that just missed out for me are Cameron Tringale (Best odds 35/1) due to his consistent T2G game and his streaky hot putter. Jhonattan Vegas (Best odds 40/1) and Emiliano Grillo (Best odds 45/1) due to their strong OTT games and their ability to it greens for fun.

The ZOZO Championship Prediction

Again, just like last week I have 4 each way fancies for this week!

Will Zalatoris: Tipped @ 20/1

This week, I turn my attention to last years Rookie of the year on the PGA Tour for my main bet of the week. Looking at some of the odds available for some specific guys, I think 20/1 on a supreme ball striker is more than acceptable. Will Zalatoris has started this year with 3 events, finishing T11, T14 and then a missed cut.

The missed cut came in a very high cut event so I am willing to forgive that. However, his performance stats have not disappointed so far. He ranks 38th SG: OTT, 4th for Greens in Reg. and 25th for SG: App. He has gained strokes around the greens this year so just needs to find his hot/cold putter and he will be bang there once again

Alex Noren: Tipped @ 35/1

Onto a guy that for me last year was as consistent as ever. Focusing his efforts mainly on the PGA Tour, Alex Noren made 25 appearances, making 19 cuts, finishing in the Top 25 12 times and in the Top 10 4 times. He made 2/3 of the FedEx cup playoff events and finished T4 at the Northern Trust, and T9 at the BMW Championships which for Alex was a mammoth effort.

The Swede then finished in a respectable T27 at Wentworth GC in the BMW PGA Championships and then T12 at the Alfred Dunhill Links at the big 3 courses in Scotland. These courses all favour and rely on players doing 2 things consistently correct - scrambling and putting.

Noren finished 27th on Tour last year for Around the Green play and 13th for putting so he clearly knows how to grind it out on and around the greens when needed. A T59 last week can be ignored to a degree as this was his first outing of the PGA Tour season at a course that doesn’t really suit. Hopefully, he can kickstart his 2022 season here.

C.T. Pan: Tipped @ 50/1

This must be the first ever time I have fancied C.T in a PGA Tour event whilst tipping. But, returning to the country where he overcome the huge 9 man 3rd place playoff at the Olympics in 2020 to secure him a bronze medal for his native Taiwan, surely he has great vibes going into the week.

Pan has started this season in great form with a T6 at the Fortinet Championship and then a T11 at the Sanderson Farms Championship.  A T59 here in 2019, backing this up with him being 11th for SG: App on Tour, 16th for Scrambling, 12th for Putting and 16th for Par 3 scoring make a case for the World Number 132.

I think C.T. has enough about him to contend here this week. Referring back to his bronze medal efforts at the Kasumigaseki CC in the 2020 Olympics, course designer Kinya Fujita also had a predominant hand in designing that course, with a lot of similarities in sight, hopefully Pan can feel a little at ease.

Tomoharu Otsuki: Tipped @ 200/1

Being played on Japanese soil, and on a traditional style track, it would be rude not to delve into the Japanese Tour regulars that line up this week. This brings me to discovering Otsuki at a crazy price of 200/1.

T46 here in 2019, Otsuki ranks 6th on the money rankings on the Tour this year so far, where he has had 24 appearances, making the cut an impressive 24 times. He finished in the Top 10 9 times and in the Top 5 6 times. 

Otsuki ranks 2nd for Total Driving on Tour this year, 8th for Greens in Reg. and 20th for the Putting Average. Unofficially on the Japanese Tour’s website, Otsuki also ranks T10 for Par 4s Birdies or Better and 1st for Par 5s Birdies or better.

As I say these 2 stats are down as unofficial so it isn’t 100%, however it gives me much hope that he’s a heavy scorer on the important holes this week. Ranking 1st for Sand Save percentage aswell puts him in great stead for this up in class challenge this week.