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ZOZO Championship Picks and Predictions

Oct. 21, 2021

Golf Expert

We've got another short field, no-cut event this week on the PGA Tour, but the fact that the ZOZO Championship is being played over in Japan again, it's not one of those no-cut events with a loaded field. Travel conditions in today's global climate can be blamed for that, as most of the big names that were in Vegas last week have declined to go overseas.

However, that does mean that the 78-man field has many guys that are afforded this opportunity that they otherwise wouldn't have had, and when it's a guaranteed paycheck and FedEx Cup points, I do think we see many guys take advantage of this chance.

ZOZO Championship Picks and Predictions

Tiger Woods was the inaugural winner of this event back in 2019, the only other time Narashino Country Club hosted this tournament. The -19 winning score Woods had that week suggests that no matter the quality of field, Tour players should be able to light up this track with birdies and eagles again.

The Par 70 course does only have three Par 5's (five Par 3's), so you might not see those who make most of their hay on Par 5's have a distinct advantage here, as it's not like a course that's just over 7,000 yards is going to feel long for any Tour player. So once again, it's about keeping the ball in play off the tee and letting the approach skills take over here, as the more makeable birdie opportunities guys give themselves, the better chance at success they'll have.

ZOZO Championship Betting Resources

ZOZO Championship Betting Odds

The biggest names that did make the trip to Japan enter the week as the decisive pre-tournament favorites, as Xander Schauffele (+550), Collin Morikawa (+700) and local favorite Hideki Matsuyama (+1200) are the three names at the top. Will Zalatoris (+1600) is the only other name below that +2000 threshold.

Six other names are between +2000 and +3000 though – Joaquin Niemann (+2200), Tommy Fleetwood (+2200), Rickie Fowler (+2500), Jhonattan Vegas (+2800), Cameron Tringale (+2800), and Alexander Noren (+2800) – making it a total of just nine players at +3000 or lower, compared to the 15 names we had last week in a much deeper field.

Therefore, the handicapping process is more about how one views this event. Are you one who believes the top tier of those 3-4 names at the top are going to dominate and then are willing to pay for those short odds on those guys, or would you prefer to go with more guys further down the board to start and adjust as the week goes on?

ZOZO Championship Contenders

  • Collin Morikawa +550
  • Xander Schauffele +650
  • Paul Casey +1400
  • Hideki Matsuyama +1400
  • Will Zalatoris +1800
  • Joaquin Niemann +2200
  • Rickie Fowler +2200
  • More Golfers
  • (Odds Subject to Change)

I don't think there is any right or wrong answer there, as I do believe we should see some great weeks from Schauffele and Matsuyama for one, but the pre-tournament prices on both are a little tough to stomach. Remember, if Schauffele is say right there late Saturday, trailing by a couple of shots or so, you'll still likely get a plus-money price on him that's lower than +550 (say +175 or +225 etc) but you already know for sure he's got a shot at winning. That's still an unknown with a +550 pre-tournament price.

So it's a name from that second tier that gets this week's pre-tournament selections off and running.

Xander Schauffele is one of the favorites to win the ZOZO Championship with odds at +650. (AP)

ZOZO Championship Contender to Back

Joaquin Niemann +2200

Niemann is a guy that really struggled with the putter last week in Vegas (-1.11 SG: Putting), which isn't exactly ideal in a tournament you expect to see a very low winning score. But giving yourself opportunities at birdie putts is somethings all you can ask for, and given that his putting data on Tour for all of last season saw him finish 47th in SG: Putting (+0.312), I've got plenty of belief that his poor putting week in Vegas was more of an anomaly than the norm.

It's his long game – off-the-tee and in the approach – that has Niemann on the card this week though, as he's just so consistent with everything he does in general. He's not the most accurate guy off-the-tee, but he was still able to finish 24th in birdie average (4.14 birdies/round) and there weren't really many names ahead of him in that category that are also playing this week (Schauffele, Morikawa, Hoffman). Just playing to that 4 birdies/round average can be a reasonable expectation for Niemann this week on a course that's expected to see low scores, and a -16 number should easily have him right there on Sunday.

ZOZO Championship Mid-Range Value

Doug Ghim +8000

Ghim is a guy that profiles out a lot like Niemann does, without the consistency in the putter. His 2021 campaign saw him finish 45th in SG: Off-the-tee, 21st in SG: Approach, 65th in SG: Around-the-green, 158th in SG: Putting, and 21st in SG: Tee-to-green. And yet, despite Ghim's putting being the most glaring weakness there, he finished the year 25th – one spot behind Niemann – in birdie average (4.13/round). So it's not like he can't get hot with the flatstick and light up a scoreboard.

The fact that it's a shorter course will help Ghim quite a bit this week as it's his accuracy from the tee box and into the green that are some of his strengths. He finished 15th in driving accuracy % last year (68.55%) and 16th in GIR % (69.64) on Tour, just routinely pounding fairways and greens and living with the results on the green.

Furthermore, with the five Par 3's and just three Par 5's at Narashino Country Club, Ghim's scoring average on Par 3's (3.02 ranked 15th on Tour) and Par 4's (3.97 ranked 16th on Tour) should come into play as well and give him a decided edge over most of this field on the bulk of the holes this field will see.

Still will need a hot week with the putter from Ghim, but at +8000 it's a chance I'm willing to live with this week.

ZOZO Championship Long Shot Pick

Sebastian Munoz +8000

Munoz is a guy I've backed in a few other tournaments in recent months, generally ones where I assume the winning score will be very low. He's a guy that's about as streaky as it gets on Tour with his play from top to bottom, and being the workhorse that he is – he's played in all four 2021-22 PGA Tour events so far, there are going to be some off weeks for him as well.

The first three starts for Munoz this season all ended with missed cuts, but he seemed to settle into more of a groove last week when the cut line wasn't an issue. All four rounds were under par as they should have been at that extremely easy venue, and while the T49th finish might not look that great there, having four rounds to work out the kinks in his game is something I view as a positive for him going forward.

If he runs into a hot putter this week in Japan, +8000 price is going to be a nice pre-tournament ticket to potentially hedge off of if need be on the weekend.

Popular Golf Betting Resources

ZOZO Championship 72 Hole Matchup

Matsuyama -145 over Rickie Fowler

Matsuyama is at a pre-tournament price point where I do believe most of the value has already been sucked out of it, but I'll lay this price with him over Fowler as Fowler's hot week in Vegas last week isn't the complete turnaround in his game that it seems like most want to believe it was.

Without question Fowler played very well at the CJ Cup last week, but that course was a complete joke to these guys and I view Fowler's performance as more of the anomaly than the rule there. He's still a guy that's struggled mightily with his game over the last year or two, and while this week's track should be giving up plenty of birdies as well, I just don't see how the current game's of these two players are remotely comparable, even with Hideki laying 45 cents on the dollar.

Now the hometown pressure could be a bit of a detriment to Matsuyama this week, but even if that's the case, Fowler would have to prove me wrong and somewhat duplicate his performance from a week ago to likely remain competitive with Matsuyama's B- or B game he'd have with some minor distractions.

How to Bet on Golf

Golf betting has gained much more exposure and interest in the past few years, and with plenty of plus-money prices littered throughout the various forms of golf wagers, the chance for bigger scores is part of the reason behind that increased popularity.

2021 Golf Betting Schedule

Sportsbooks ensure that there are no shortage of wagering options on golf tournaments every week, and it isn't all about picking the winner. Grabbing the outright winner of a golf tournament is the best way to get that 'big score' but it's also the hardest wager to cash. After all, a typical professional golf tournament has a field of 140+ different players to consider.

Understanding Golf Odds and Bets

Most golf odds are listed in the fractional format – 10/1 on Dustin Johnson for example – and in that particular case you would multiply the amount bet by that first number to project your winnings. So a $100 bet on DJ to win that particular event would win you $1000.

If you are more comfortable with the American version of odds listings that you typically see across the other major North American sports – ie +1000 – these numbers are easily convertible. Online and app based books may already have that option built in, but the easiest way to do it yourself is to add two zeros to the first number in the fraction. So a 10/1 price on DJ converts to +1000 in that format.

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