There are weeks during the PGA Tour season where the Tour folks can pack up after an event and just take a short ride up the road.
This definitely isn’t one of those weeks.
After spending a week in Las Vegas, the Tour hits the road big-time, heading some 5,500 miles west to Chiba, Japan, for the ZOZO Championship.
Last year the ZOZO event returned to Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club where Hideki Matsuyama thrilled the hometown fans with a five-shot victory.
This tournament features a 78-man field in a no-cut event, so everyone will get the chance to play four rounds. With players like Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa in the field the U.S. will be well represented.
But there will also be a standout foreign contingent including Matsuyama, Tom Kim, K.H. Lee, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Sebastian Munoz, Si Woo Kim, and others that will make the tournament a high-wattage event.
Three members of Team USA in the Presidents Cup will be in the field while nine players on the International Team will tee it up.
Will a hometown player win the title again, or will the trophy and big paycheck head to parts unknown?
We’re about to find out.
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Odds to Win the ZOZO Championship
|Si Woo Kim||+4500|
As always, shop around the sports betting industry for the best odds on your plays.
ZOZO Championship Expert Analysis & Top Win Pick
A few months ago the name Tom Kim, +1600 this week, wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
Now there’s not a hotter player on the planet.
How hot is he? Well, after his victory in last week’s Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas (with a lot of help from Patrick Cantlay’s collapse on the 72nd hole), he’s now got two wins in his last four starts on the PGA Tour.
Pretty impressive, but a deeper dive brings up more amazing facts and figures. He got those two victories on the PGA Tour at the age of 20. And he also got those two wins earlier in his career than some cat named Tiger Woods. Kim is 20 years, three months and 19 days old. Only Ralph Guldahl, way back in 1932, won two Tour titles at an earlier age than Kim.
Add in the fact his stellar play and rah-rah attitude helped the International Team make a run at Team USA in the Presidents Cup, and it would appear the sky is the limit.
Kim’s from South Korea, so chances are he’ll have more than his share of fans in the gallery in Japan to back his play.
Can he keep up this torrid pace? Probably not. But at age 20, he’s got more than enough energy and game to ride the wave of success he’s on right now.
If you’re not on the Tom Kim bandwagon yet, better hurry as space is going fast.
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Good Vibes for Schauffele
If there’s one U.S. player making the trip to China who will have a good feeling about playing well on the road, it’s going to be Xander Schauffele.
Why? Well considering he beat the field to win the gold medal in the 2020 Olympics in Japan, he’s proven he can take his game on the road…and way, way on the road.
He’s also coming off a wraparound season that saw him end a PGA Tour slump of three years with not one…not two…but three Tour titles (well, counting a team win with Cantlay), so it’s safe to assume his game is in a great spot.
At least we hope it is.
See, he hasn’t played an official event since the Tour Championship in August, so we will see how in-shape his game is coming out of the blocks for the wraparound season.
He was T-28 here last year after two disappointing rounds to open the tournament. Weekend scores of 68-68 moved him up the leaderboard. We’re hoping that momentum carries over, and he starts out strong as well as finishes strong.
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Around the Prop Scene
We’re going to stick with a top-5 and a top-10 pick in this week’s event that features a fairly elite field. The odds may not be the best but a payday is a payday.
For the top-5 play we like Matsuyama at +350. He’s going to have a lot on his plate before the event with his duties as the defending champ but like the old saying goes: There’s no place like home.
In the top-10 portion, we’ll take a look at Tommy Fleetwood at +250. He was T-7 here last year. That’s the good news. The bad news is he’s coming off a T-37 last week at the Spanish Open. The week prior he was T-22 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
So his game is coming into form slowly but surely.
The one problem is guys flying to China from Vegas are looking at that 5,500-mile jaunt. For Fleetwood, coming in from Madrid, it’s an additional 1,200 miles.
Granted, he’s not going to be in a middle seat in coach, but it’s still a long haul and seven time zones of change.
One final prop bet to put on the burner and let it simmer for a minute: A player winning while going wire-to-wire is at +1100.
If someone comes out hot and puts up an impressive number right out of the gate, it might be a catch-me-if-you-can tournament.
It’s always tough to take it for granted your guy will play well early, in the middle of the tournament, and in the final round.
But that’s why they call it gambling.
Also read: Longshots Who Can Win Majors in 2023