The PGA Tour returns to Japan this week for the third instalment of the Zozo Championship. Barry Plummer has everything you need to know
I said after Adri Arnaus finished second in Madrid two weeks ago that I felt I was on the right lines, and once again I get that feeling of being so close yet so far following a second consecutive week of runner-up finishes – a fine final-round 62 from Collin Morikawa just wasn’t enough to catch Rory McIlroy in Las Vegas. But despite the disappointment of missing out I am sure the next win is just around the corner. This week we head to Japan, for the Zozo Championship – the scene of Tiger Woods’ record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour title two years ago – and with another small-field, no-cut event I have found plenty of value to keep us interested all the way to Sunday…
Zozo Championship details
Venue: Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, Chiba, Japan
Date: October 21-24, 2021
Course stats: Par 70; 7,041 yards
Course summary: This majestic venue is a traditional Japanese tree-lined parklands. Small greens and tight fairways await players, with dog-legs a regular feature to negotiate. A mixture of devilishly long, and optimistically short par-4 holes will test the players ability to play this one tactically, with accuracy sure to be at a premium.
Purse: $9.75 million
Defending champion: Patrick Cantlay (-15)
Zozo Championship TV coverage
Thursday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 5am
Friday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 5am
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf from 5am and Sky Sports Main Event from 5.30am
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf from 5am
Zozo Championship betting tips
Bazza’s Banker: Hideki Matsuyama @ 14/1 with Bet365
How can we kick-off the preview of a huge PGA Tour event held in Japan without a nod to the reigning Masters champion? Some may look at this and call it a lazy pick, but let me explain why I really like his chances here.
Matsuyama started the new PGA Tour season well with a T6 finish at the Fortinet Championship, and already has six PGA Tour victories to his name. His last two opening rounds in PGA Tour events have been 65 and 66, so with a buoyant home crowd right behind him a fast start could move him into pole position.
Matsuyama also fits the bill in terms of the numbers, ranking 12th for SG: Tee-to-green. His accuracy and consistency will only strengthen his claim, with a second place finish at this venue in 2019 suggesting he knows how to manage his game around here.
A solid performance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo demonstrates again how well he plays in his home nation, but I am certain that he will be motivated to improve once more and take the title this week.
The Each-Way Play: Alex Noren @ 35/1 with Bet365
Alex Noren has enjoyed a resurgence in form of late, with two top 10s and two top 20s in his last six starts. One of those impressive performances came at the Olympics in Tokyo, which could prove to be an invaluable form link as we return to Japan.
On a course where expect accuracy to be vital both from the tee and when approaching the greens, Noren definitely ticks the box. The Swede currently ranks 5th for Driving Accuracy this season, and has hit 75% of GIR. Noren’s putting has also been a key weapon, ranking 7th for SG: Putting in the last three months, and that should put him right in the mix if he can produce here.
After a successful stint on the European Tour, Noren began his PGA Tour season with a respectable 10-under-par performance in Vegas last week. That will hopefully have shaken off any rust and with a much more appealing price than his market rivals I like his chances.
The Long Shot: Sebastian Munoz @ 90/1 with Bet365
Another player who shone at the Olympics was Sebastian Munoz, finishing T4 and just missing out on a bronze medal. The Colombian suits this style of test, and also has form through the WGC Mexico link with a T14 and T22 finish in the last two years.
His recent form has been questionable however, with three missed cuts to start the PGA Tour season. Nevertheless, a strong performance in Vegas last week saw Munoz move in the right direction and start to play some better golf. An impressive end to the 2020 season suggests this may have been a momentary lapse, and at a big price it could pay to keep the faith with him.
For more prices visit Bet365.