The PGA Tour continues its journey around the Far East and this week the destination is Japan. This is the first edition of the Zozo Championship and although we have a restricted field of 78, it is one of the strongest so far in 2019/20.
Our betting tip for last week, Gary Woodland, finished in a creditable tie for third in the CJ Cup but we need winners so let’s see who is in the frame for this brand new event.
Justin Thomas (+750 or 15/2 with Bovada) arrives fresh from his win in South Korea on Sunday. JT turned in a dominant performance for much of his four rounds although the two-shot victory over Danny Lee was a little close for comfort.
In his last four starts, Thomas has won twice and has only been beaten by five other golfers and if he hits form again, we should look no further for our first champion.
At a fraction behind Thomas in the Zozo outright betting, Rory McIlroy (+800 or 8/1) makes the short trip across Japan having seen his Ireland team eliminated from the Rugby Union World Cup on Saturday. McIlroy has put caddy issues and poor form behind him and he tends to benefit when the spotlight is taken away by a shorter-priced player.
Behind the top two, Hideki Matsuyama (16/1) was one of three men tied for third at the CJ Cup and the Japanese will be the home favorite across the four days. Matsuyama has competed extensively in his home country and comes into Thursday on the back of three top 10s since the FedEx playoffs.
A high class field continues with Jordan Spieth, Paul Casey and Xander Schauffele all coming in at similar odds of 20/1. Spieth is hinting at a return to form but of those three names, Casey has the best relevant stats in terms of Adjusted Scoring and Greens Hit.
Adam Scott (22/1) follows and it is worth noting that the Australian finished fifth in last week’s Japan Open. Also in the chasing section are Tommy Fleetwood (25/1), Tony Finau (28/1) and our in-form tip from last week – Gary Woodland (25/1).
The Zozo Championship is notable for the return to competitive action of Tiger Woods (33/1). His presence has given a huge boost to the Tour as it heads to the Far East but that long absence means that Tiger heads up the list of outsiders for Japan.
Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland (both between 25/1 and 33/1) are at the same sort of odds but if there is some value in the longshots, then it could lie with Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick (28/1 to 33/1). ‘Fitzy’ is down the Zozo outright betting but he is sitting in sixth place in the Power Rankings following some solid displays on the European Tour. The English golfer may be short on wins but he has five runner-up places in the last 11 months and is a candidate for a top 10 finish at the least.
Other names in this section to consider may include Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Kevin Na and Billy Horschel. There is some good depth to the field but what will it take to become the inaugural champion?
Our Preview’s Zozo Championship Predictions & Picks with Course & Betting Trends
Because this is the first running of the Zozo Championship there is little, if anything, we can identify in the way of trends. We have seen that the Japan Open was run seven days ago but aside from Adam Scott, few of this week’s genuine contenders actually took part.
Our venue this week is the snappily-named Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba. It is a short course where power hitting is unlikely to have any effect. It is a par 70 at just under 7050 yards but while there are five par 3s, there is a 608 yard par 5 and a 562 yard par 5 to close things out.
Some heavy rain and strong winds are expected to have an effect on the first two days so we are primarily looking for accuracy as the lush and dense rough could be punishing.
One name that stands out is that of Paul Casey. A good record on links courses suggests he could actually thrive in these punishing conditions and he has some excellent stats coming into Thursday. If Justin Thomas is on form, no-one will live with him but Casey, along with these three other top 10 finish picks, offers far better value for the inaugural Zozo Championship.
- Paul Casey to win @ best odds of +2452 (nearly 25/1) with Bookmaker. He is 22/1 with Intertops or BetOnline and 20/1 with Bovada.
- The Zozo Championship predictions for top 10 finishes are: Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Adam Scott and Gary Woodland (Bovada, Intertops and BetOnline will publish odds for this market within the next 24 hours).
Matt Harris is a golf and soccer expert for USA Betting. His other area of specialist knowledge is cricket. He is well known in sports journalism and contributes articles to a plethora of big-name websites and media outlets. Titles that he writes or has written for include: Betfair, BetVictor, Unibet & Just Bookies.