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Who has the advantage at this week’s PGA Tour stop in Japan? This answer is easy, but troubling: No one.

That’s because all 78 players in this week’s 2019 ZOZO Championship in Chiba, Japan, will be in the same boat when they step on the first tee as this inaugural event will be the Tour’s first-ever stop in Japan.

There is no defending champion. There is no tournament scoring record. It’s all brand new for everyone.

The tournament site is being held at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, 800 miles from last week’s event at Jeju Island, South Korea.

Accordia is a par 70 layout that reaches just over 7,000 yards. And an important note this week: The tournament will be played on a composite course of the two layouts at the resort. And it will be a very uniquely designed 18 holes. While it will be a par-70 layout, how they get to that number is intriguing. There are 10 par 4s, three par 5s and five par 3s.  

This will take some of the premium off distance (one less than the usual four par 5s) and put more of an emphasis on accuracy (one more par 3 than a usual layout).

One of the more intriguing holes to watch that will tempt the big guns will be the par-5 6th hole. It’s a severe dogleg right with a huge pond guarding the dogleg. The question players will face is how much of the hole can they cut off without getting too greedy? An eagle will definitely vault players up the leaderboard but a bogey or worse will dampen players’ chances.  

With all that information circulating around in your brain, we’re going to add another huge factor into the mix.

That rumbling you hear in the distance from the golf world is the buzz that, yes, Tiger Woods is back.

But is he really? Yes, he’s in the field. The problem is he’s also coming off surgery on his left knee (again) as he recovers from the fifth procedure he’s had on this knee alone. As usual, there’s very, very little news from Woods and his camp about anything Tiger-related, let alone where an injury is concerned.

And another factor this week is Brooks Koepka, who had to withdraw from last week’s tournament with, imagine that, a flareup of a knee following an offseason procedure.

Woods and Koepka might have two sound knees between them right now, but don’t bet on it.

And while we’re talking about Woods being a newcomer on the wraparound scene, there’s another big name back for the first time since the FedEx Cup playoffs. Rory McIlroy is teeing it up and that throws another a monkey wrench into the betting dilemma. Will McIlroy be crisp or will that dreaded rust factor come into play?

It seems we have a few things to mull over before we figure out if this puzzle has enough pieces to finish it.

One final point. OK, two actually. The purse for the event is a massive $9.75 million with the winner walking away with a tidy $1.75 million.

That will certainly get players’ attention come the final round if they are on the first page of the leaderboard.

Who can handle the pressure?

While we aren’t certain how Woods and McIlroy will perform, we do know how a few other golfers are playing as we look back on last week’s first of three-in-a-row Asian stops.

Justin Thomas, the favorite at 7-1, is already making noise and shaking off last year’s wrist injury and this year’s melanoma scare (ironically on his left leg). With his victory last week, there’s no reason to question his game, his health or his drive to keep adding to his win total.

Back-to-back victories? We’re betting on it.

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About the Author

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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