First the good news: Defending champion Tiger Woods will highlight a PGA Tour event this week as the Tour brings the 2020 ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood to United States soil.
The inaugural playing of the event was held in Japan last year. But with the coronavirus still haunting everyone, it has landed at Sherwood Country Club outside of Los Angeles for this year.
Now the bad news: Don’t expect Woods, at 40-1, to be the two-time defending champion when the winner is crowned Sunday.
The reasoning is quite simple as Woods, who has fallen to 28th in the world rankings, hasn’t shown anywhere near the consistency to win that he will need.
Granted, Woods has won at Sherwood five times in his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge, which was held at the course from 2000-2013. But this is a different time and this is certainly a different Tiger Woods.
That’s not to say he’s still not capable of winning again. It’s just that with his limited playing time and sketchy results in 2020, he’s certainly not hitting on all cylinders.
How sketchy? Here are the cold, hard facts. He’s only made one start in the 2020-2021 wraparound season and that was a missed cut at the U.S. Open. Before that, in the 2019-2020 season, you’ve got to go back to January for a top-10 finish as he was T-9 at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Since that top-10, he has a mediocre T-37 is his best finish in just seven events. He’s also got a finish in the 40s, a couple in the 50s and his worst was a 68th at the Genesis.
Sorry Tiger fans, we’re feeling there’s still too much work to do, way too much, for him to win, even in a limited field event as the ZOZO will have just 78 players with no cut. In that field of 78 will be 37 of the top 50 players in the world rankings.
So, who will be hoisting the trophy and cashing the big paycheck (around $1.75 million) come Sunday night?
Well, this week ‘X’ marks the spot.
There’s just been no keeping Xander Schauffele, at 10-1 odds this week, off the leaderboard in majors or big-time, no-cut events. This is the latter.
And Schauffele is coming off an impressive solo fifth finish in the U.S. Open and then, after a couple of weeks off, tore up Shadow Creek early and often in the CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek event.
3 straight birdies to tie the lead!
Xander is -165 liveðŸ”¥
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) October 18, 2020
He stumbled badly on Saturday (a two-over-par-74) but rebounded with an impressive six-under-par Sunday effort to grab second alone.
Now, how did he get to this point of being on the radar without actually being on the radar? Well, it’s the little things. For instance, you might be shocked to know he’s the seventh-ranked player in the world golf rankings. He’s that low-key.
Another saying fits perfectly in this scenario as well: Speak softly and carry a big stick. Schauffele does both. For his size, he’s all of 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he can hit it with the best of them. Well, almost. He’s averaging 311-plus yards off the tee. Now before your eyes bug out too far, let’s put that in a little perspective: He’s only 45th on the Tour in driving distance.
But add in his scoring average of 66.91 (good enough for third) and that can make the difference and help him win the fifth Tour crown of his career.
His last win was at the 2019 Tournament of Champions on Maui, but he’s been close. He’s had six runner-up finishes (and two third-place finishes) since that win.
Two more stats to keep in mind. He’s tops in strokes gained around the greens and third in strokes gained overall. Add in that 311 number off the tee and it’s a wonder he’s not winning more.
Another guy to keep an eye on in the ‘when you’re hot, you’re hot’ category is Tyrrell Hatton, who’s 20-1. Hatton was fresh off a victory in the BMW PGA event on the European Tour when he took the 20-plus hour flight to Vegas to compete in the CJ Cup. Not only did he compete, he was in contention until the end and finished T-3. A little rest Monday before he tees it up Thursday and he could be holding another trophy.