Buckle up, sit back and relax…it’s a little bit of a trip to this week’s PGA Tour stop.
After spending two weeks in Las Vegas, the Tour heads west…way west…to Chiba, Japan, for the 2021 ZOZO Championship. The tournament will be held at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, some 5,500 miles away from the bright lights of Vegas.
A field of 78 elite players will tee it up. Patrick Cantlay is the defending champion when last year’s tournament was played in California. That’s no surprise as he won an impressive four times in the 2020-2021 wraparound season including the final two events in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
But he’s not in the field this year.
While travel restrictions are likely keeping a few of the big names from making the trip (after all, the purse is nearly $10 million and this is the only trip to Japan in this wraparound season.)
While the big names who will be on-site definitely need to be checked out, we’re going to go down the list and maybe, just maybe, see a player pick up his first victory on the PGA Tour.
But it won’t be easy. These guys travel for a living. They get to a site, play a practice round, and then tee it up in the event.
This one is a little different in that it’s a long, long trip to China (twice as far as when they travel to Hawaii for The Tournament of Champions each January) so getting used to teeing it up can be a challenge.
How big a challenge? Well, if a player teed it up at noon in Vegas last week, that equates with teeing it up at 4 a.m. in China. Sure, they will adjust…but which players can do it the quickest?
Odds To Win 2021 ZOZO Championship by BetMGM
|Zozo Championship Odds||BetMGM|
Don’t Discount The Talent In The Field
There’s still a pretty elite field teeing it up. Xander Schauffele, who won a gold medal at the Olympics in China, is here along with other top players like Collin Morikawa, Hiedki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Cameron Champ, Paul Casey, Shane Lowry, and more. In all, there are 11 players ranked in the top 50 in the world.
This is the third year of the event and the last two winners are impressive…but aren’t in the field: Tiger Woods in 2019 (the last time he won on Tour) and Cantlay last year.
So if it’s a wide-open week, where do we look for that little nugget that might help us pick a winner?
We’re going to look way down the entry list–well, at least when it comes to alphabetically looking down the entry list.
We’ll stop at the ‘Z’s
Is It Zalatoris’ Time?
We’re looking at Will Zalatoris, last season’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, to pick up his first win on Tour. At +1800 he’s a little down the list and we love that.
He’s been close…so close he can taste it. Last season he finished up with eight top 10s including a second at the Masters. This season he’s two-for-two in cuts made and finished in the top-25 in both events.
While he’s still finding his way on Tour, the confidence in his swing and his overall game grow by the week. There’s no cut this week so there’s no reason he won’t be in the hunt come Sunday.
Now, whether he can come up with the clutch shots he will need to win on Saturday and Sunday is another matter.
We’re hoping he’s ready to hit on all cylinders this week…especially on the weekend.
Collin Morikawa Needs To Be In The Discussion
Collin Morikawa, one of the favorites at +550, came out of the blocks in the 2021-2022 wraparound season with a bang, finishing second at the CJ Cup @ Summit last week at his home course in Las Vegas.
In the 2021 season, he had 11 top 25 finishes in 19 events where he made the cut including two victories so he’s adjusting to Tour life just fine.
We know…we picked him as one of our choices for last week and it didn’t quite work out as he came up just short.
But when a golfer is hot, you keep backing him.
He finished last week’s CJ Cup tournament with a final-round 62 and came up a shot short of Rory McIlroy’s winning total. A three-hole stretch on Friday, where he went bogey, double bogey, bogey, could have sent him reeling but he rallied over the weekend to give himself a shot.
We’re not jumping off the Morikawa bandwagon any time soon.
Looking Down The Board For A Longshot
If you’re looking for better odds, look down the list a little (OK, quite a bit) and check out Ryan Palmer at +6600. He was T-4 last year at this event when it was in California and was T-10 in the inaugural event in 2019 when it was in Japan.
Palmer missed the cut in the Shriners event, his first outing of the wraparound season, but he’s making his third start in this event with those two solid finishes so he’s very comfortable.
Again, it’s a lot of travel but if he can adjust to the time difference quickly enough and come out of the gates hot, this could be his time to get back in the winner’s circle. He last won at the 2019 at the Zurich Classic, a team event where he partnered with Jon Rahm. His last individual title came in 2010, the Sony Open in Hawaii.