Best bets for ZOZO Championship, Andalucia Masters

USATSI_19092342

Tom Kim looks like he is going to be the world's next golf superstar. The 20-year-old South Korean achieved several milestones with his victory at the Shriners Children's Open last weekend in Las Vegas at a price of 25-1.

Kim became the youngest player to earn his second PGA Tour win in 90 years (Ralph Guldahl, 1932). He is also the second player under 21 to win twice on the PGA Tour since World War II (the other being a guy named Tiger Woods). Kim also became the third player in PGA Tour history to go bogey-free over 72 holes and go on to win a PGA Tour event (Lee Trevino, 1974 Greater New Orleans Open and J.T. Poston, 2019 Wyndham Championship). He earned this second victory in just his 18th PGA Tour start, which is the third-shortest span in Tour history (Robert Gamez, 13 starts in 1990 and Seve Ballesteros, 16 starts in 1980).

Nevertheless, it was not easy for Kim as he was tied with tournament favorite and former Shriners champion Patrick Cantlay at 24 under heading to the 72nd hole. Cantlay hit an errant 3-wood off the tee and pulled his drive left into the brush. He failed to punch out successfully into the fairway and ended up carding a triple-bogey 7 courtesy of a 36-foot putt to tie for second with Matthew NeSmith, who earned his best career PGA Tour finish but came up short for us as an 80-1 tip.

This week, the PGA Tour heads to Japan for the ZOZO Championship. Kim, now ranked No. 15 in the OWGR, is in the field but is not the tournament favorite at 16-1. Japan holds a special place for Xander Schauffele (8-1) as he won Olympic gold in Tokyo last year. Sungjae Im (12-1) finished third here on debut in 2019 and finished seventh last week in Las Vegas. Collin Morikawa (16-1), while born in the United States, is of Japanese descent, and this event is also special to him. As the national golf hero of Japan, Hideki Matsuyama (14-1) always carries extra pressure in his “home game” event, but he finished runner-up in 2019 to Tiger Woods and is the defending ZOZO champion.

In all, 14 of the OWGR Top 50 players are in Japan this week, including Cameron Young (18-1), Viktor Hovland (20-1), Tyrrell Hatton (25-1), Corey Conners (28-1), Tommy Fleetwood (33-1), Keegan Bradley (33-1), Tom Hoge (40-1), Mito Pereira (40-1), Sepp Straka (50-1) and KH Lee (50-1).

The Event

The ZOZO Championship began in 2019 as the first PGA Tour event sanctioned in Japan (co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour). It is held at Narashino Country Club in Inzai, Chiba, Japan, which is about 90 minutes outside of Tokyo. Due to the co-sanctioning with the Japan Golf Tour, there is a sizable contingent of Japanese players in the field.

This week’s no-cut field consists of 78 players, and here is how the field breaks down:

  • Top 60 available PGA Tour players from the previous season's FedEx Cup standings.
  • Top 7 players in the current season Japan Golf Tour money list through the Bridgestone Open.
  • Top 3 players in the Bridgestone Open.
  • 8 sponsor exemptions.

​The inaugural ZOZO Championship in 2019 was won by Tiger Woods. It was his 82nd PGA Tour victory, which still has him tied with Sam Snead for the most career wins. The 2020 ZOZO was held at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns in Japan and was won by Patrick Cantlay but returned to Japan last year and was won by Hideki Matsuyama.

The Course

​The Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, which opened in 1965, is just outside of Japan’s sprawling capital Tokyo. Set to the east of the planet’s biggest city near Chiba, Narashino CC has three sets of 18 holes, namely the King, Kuko and Queen courses.

The ZOZO Championship this week will play a composite layout on what is a typical Japanese course. The course is a tree-lined parklands, featuring six doglegs and small putting surfaces. Another Japanese golf course design feature is that many of the holes at Narashino feature two greens. ZOZO like to utilize this for the tournament, with different greens used on different days, and this will be a feature on the par-4 fourth hole. If a player finds the wrong green during tournament week, he will get a free drop under a “wrong green” ruling to the nearest point of relief.

The host course Accordia Golf Narashino CC, designed by Kinya Fujita, is a par-70 measuring 7,079 yards. This is the rainy season in Japan, so the course will play soft but also a tad longer than its listed yardage. Unlike most par-70 courses, it includes five par-3s and three par-5s instead of the customary two par-5s and four par-3s. The front nine is a par-34 and the back nine is a par-36. Of the 10 par-4s, none measures between 425-485 yards. They are either short or long par-4s with little in between.

The fairways and rough (a non-penal two inches) are Zoysiagrass while the greens are Bentgrass and will roll at a 11 on the stimpmeter. The Bentgrass greens are on the smallish side at an average of 5,500 square feet.

Correlated courses include Kasumigaseki (the Tokyo Olympics course), Harbour Town, Colonial, TPC Sawgrass, Waialae, Sheshan International, Nine Bridges, TPC Kuala Lumpur and Chapultepec.

Tournament History

2021: Hideki Matsuyama (-15/265); 16-1; Narashino CC

2020: Patrick Cantlay (-23/265); 28-1; Sherwood CC

2019: Tiger Woods (-19/261); 33-1; Narashino CC

Statistical Analysis

Strokes Gained data has not been available for this event, but this is not a course that penalizes much for missing the fairway with only two-inch rough, so this is a second-shot golf course.

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Mito Pereira 32.3
  2. Xander Schauffele 31.4
  3. Tom Kim 31
  4. Hideki Matsuyama 26.3
  5. Mark Hubbard 26
  6. Lee Hodges 26
  7. Collin Morikawa 25.7
  8. Brendan Steele 25.2
  9. Tom Hoge 22.2
  10. Sungjae Im 21.7
  11. Corey Conners 20.2
  12. Adam Schenk 20
  13. Luke List 19.4
  14. Davis Riley 19.4
  15. Chez Reavie 19.3

Narashino is around 4% harder to hit Greens in Regulation relative to PGA Tour average. Wet and windy conditions are expected on Thursday, so players will have to be especially good with longer irons.

Greens In Regulation Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Corey Conners 52.5
  2. Xander Schauffele 43.2
  3. Brendan Steele 39.5
  4. Mito Pereira 37.7
  5. Adam Long 37.2
  6. Emiliano Grillo 34.9
  7. Tom Kim 32.8
  8. Aaron Rai 32.6
  9. Cameron Champ 31.4
  10. Sungjae Im 31.2
  11. Tommy Fleetwood 27.6
  12. Hayden Buckley 26.6
  13. Matthew NeSmith 25.9
  14. Russell Knox 25.1

Although this is more of a second-shot golf course, gaining off the tee, either via distance or accuracy (preferably both), is still paramount.

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Cameron Young 32.6
  2. Sungjae Im 28.7
  3. Cameron Champ 25.6
  4. Brendan Steele 25
  5. Hayden Buckley 24.7
  6. Corey Conners 23.3
  7. Luke List 22.8
  8. Emiliano Grillo 19.8
  9. Xander Schauffele 15
  10. Mito Pereira 14.9
  11. Patrick Rodgers 14.4
  12. Keegan Bradley 13.8
  13. Viktor Hovland 13.4
  14. Collin Morikawa 13
  15. Kevin Streelman 13

Good Drives Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Mito Pereira 40.2
  2. Corey Conners 39.5
  3. Collin Morikawa 32.4
  4. Xander Schauffele 32.2
  5. Tom Kim 32.2
  6. Adam Schenk 28.2
  7. Hayden Buckley 28.1
  8. Matthew NeSmith 27.7
  9. Satoshi Kodaira 27.6
  10. Sungjae Im 26.7
  11. Chez Reavie 25.5
  12. Adam Long 23.4
  13. Emiliano Grillo 23.4
  14. Aaron Rai 23.4
  15. Cameron Champ 21.2
  16. Brendan Steele 21.2
  17. Kevin Streelman 21

Many of the approach shots at Narashino will come from the 175-200-yard range.

Proximity Gained: 175-200 Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Si Woo Kim 15.3
  2. Chez Reavie 12.2
  3. Lee Hodges 11.9
  4. Tommy Fleetwood 11.5
  5. C.T. Pan 11.2
  6. Tom Hoge 10.8
  7. Viktor Hovland 10.2
  8. Satoshi Kodaira 10.2
  9. Cam Davis 9.7
  10. Davis Riley 9.1
  11. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 8.3
  12. Kevin Streelman 7.8
  13. Collin Morikawa 7.3
  14. Keegan Bradley 6.8
  15. Brendan Steele 6.8

Note: Average feet gained toward the hole per shot.

Most par-70 layouts have four par-3s. Narashino has five par-3s.

Strokes Gained: Par-3s (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tom Kim 30.2
  2. Xander Schauffele 17.2
  3. Mito Pereira 15.8
  4. Stephan Jaeger 15.8
  5. Hideki Matsuyama 13.6
  6. Satoshi Kodaira 13.2
  7. Tommy Fleetwood 12.5
  8. Sungjae Im 11.8
  9. Cam Davis 11.7
  10. Mark Hubbard 10.9
  11. Adam Long 10.5
  12. Adam Schenk 9.9
  13. Taylor Moore 9.8
  14. Viktor Hovland 9.4

The greens at Narashino are smaller than average, so players might miss greens and will have to save pars after chips and short pitch shots.

Bogey Avoidance (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tommy Fleetwood 25.1
  2. Tom Kim 24.6
  3. Xander Schauffele 22.5
  4. Adam Long 22.3
  5. Andrew Putnam 21.5
  6. Sebastian Munoz 21.3
  7. Hideki Matsuyama 19.4
  8. Cam Davis 18.8
  9. Adam Schenk 18.8
  10. Collin Morikawa 17.7
  11. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 17.5
  12. Cameron Young 17.4
  13. Kevin Streelman 16.5
  14. Sungjae Im 15.7
  15. Patrick Rodgers 14.9
  16. Corey Conners 14.8

Strokes Gained: Around The Green (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Cameron Young 15.7
  2. Si Woo Kim 15.2
  3. Mackenzie Hughes 13.8
  4. Andrew Putnam 13.4
  5. Rickie Fowler 13.1
  6. John Huh 12.8
  7. Stephan Jaeger 12.7
  8. Scott Stallings 10.4
  9. Peter Malnati 10.4
  10. Lucas Herbert 10.1
  11. Tommy Fleetwood 9.6
  12. Wyndham Clark 9.5
  13. Martin Laird 9.5
  14. Sahith Theegala 8.8
  15. Sungjae Im 7.8

All three of the par-5s measure over 550 yards.

Strokes Gained: Par-5s 550-600 Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Emiliano Grillo 15.5
  2. Stephan Jaeger 15.3
  3. Cam Davis 11.1
  4. Brandon Wu 9.9
  5. Cameron Champ 9.7
  6. Sahith Theegala 9.6
  7. Rickie Fowler 9
  8. Hayden Buckley 8.8
  9. Patrick Rodgers 8
  10. Keegan Bradley 7.3
  11. John Huh 7.3
  12. Matt Wallace 7.1
  13. Kevin Streelman 7
  14. Russell Knox 6.6

Selections

​Collin Morikawa (16-1, Superbook Sports)

Morikawa is still winless in 2022, but he has not exactly in a slump considering he has been in the mix several times this season: second at the Genesis Invitational, fifth at the Masters, fifth at the U.S. Open and fifth at the FedEx St Jude Championship.

He has always played well in Japan with a 22nd (2019) and seventh (2021) at Narashino. Morikawa has also finished fifth (2019) at the Dunlop Phoenix and third (2021) at the Olympics.

Morikawa is also half-Japanese, so this event has a special meaning for him.

Victor Hovland (22-1, Circa Sports)

Unlike many in this field, Hovland comes in with three weeks of rest.

The Japanese form does not really indicate much, but he has gone low before like he did with a 64 last summer in the Olympics. Unfortunately, a third-round 71 kept him from contending for a medal.

Tyrrell Hatton (27-1, FanDuel)

Hatton comes to Japan with consecutive top-10 finishes on the DP World Tour and with six top-25s in his last eight starts.

The Englishman ranks second in this field for both three-putt avoidance and putts from 0-5 feet.

He ranked top 5 on the PGA Tour for putting last season.

Mito Pereira (35-1, Superbook Sports)

Pereira looks like he has finally recovered from the disastrous tee shot on the 72nd hole that cost him the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in May.

Last week at the Shriners Children's Open, he finished T-4 but led the field for Strokes Gained: Approach.

He also has a good history in Japan finishing T-4 at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year.

Brady Kannon’s selections

Cameron Young (15-1)

One of the new "young guns” on tour has become one of the best players in the world in a short period of time. He is ranked 16th according to the OWGR and already has a third-place finish at last year's PGA Championship and a second at the British Open in July. Young has the rare combination of being extremely long off of the tee, an excellent ball striker and possessing a terrific short game. Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Japan is this week's venue. It’s comparable to Country Club of Jackson, where they play the Sanderson Farms, Quail Hollow, home to the Wells Fargo Championship and Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif. These courses all require great driving, feature relatively narrow fairways and long par-5s, as does Narashino CC. Young has a 20th-place finish at Torrey Pines and was second at the Sanderson Farms in 2021. This will be Young's season debut, but he ended the summer with four top-10 finishes, so I'm hoping the good form remains intact.

Cam Davis (46-1)

Another Cameron who is a big hitter with a solid short game. Davis comes off of a 37th-place finish last week in Las Vegas but recorded three top-20 finishes in July and August. He's never missed a cut in five visits to Torrey Pines and took 26th in his only trip to Quail Hollow Club in 2021. With shorter par-3s on this course and longer par-5s, approach shots from 175+ yards will be plentiful this week. Davis ranks 13th in the field in proximity to the hole from that distance.

Scott Stallings (53-1)

Stallings is yet another player who is very long off of the tee and has a top-notch short game. He, too, has had excellent success at the correlated courses. He's won before at Torrey Pines and also finished second and 25th. At Sanderson Farms, Stallings has finished 13th and sixth in two of his last three trips. Over the course of the last 36 rounds, he ranks 11th in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach and sixth in Strokes Gained on the long par-5s.

Luke List (100-1)

Luke List ranks fifth in the field for Strokes Gained: Ball Striking but is average as far as his putting. Narashino Country Club features pristine bentgrass putting surfaces and we've seen players like List, who are tremendous ball strikers but poor putters, fare well here in the past. Hideki Matsuyama, Corey Conners, Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley are perfect examples as is List himself, who finished seventh in Japan last year. He won at Torrey Pines last season and also finished 12th and 10th before. He has a second and a 17th at the Sanderson Farms, and has finished as high as sixth and ninth at Quail Hollow. The bad news is List has missed five cuts in his last seven starts, dating to July, but I couldn't pass up the price on a player who makes too much sense for this course.

Andalucía Masters

Jon Rahm was a 2-1 favorite for a reason at last week's Open de España as he emerged victorious in Madrid for the third time in last four Spanish Opens matching his hero, Seve Ballesteros. Rahm shot a final-round 62 to finish at 25 under, six strokes clear of Frenchman Matthieu Pavon and seven ahead of Australian Min Woo Lee.

This week, we have another short favorite on the DP World Tour in the second of three consecutive events in Spain. Matt Fitzpatrick (11-2) returns to Valderrama as the defending champion of the Andalucia Masters. Min Woo Lee (22-1), third last week, was the runner-up to Fitzpatrick last year. Ryan Fox (22-1), who finished fourth here last year, is having his career season with three victories on the DP World Tour, including two weeks ago at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and is ranked 23rd in the OWGR. Robert MacIntyre (22-1) is also a recent DP World Tour winner, having defeated Fitzpatrick last month in a playoff at the Italian Open.

The Event

The Andalucia Masters began in 2010 as a replacement for the Volvo Masters and held at the same Valderrama Golf Club venue. The tournament was canceled in 2012 because of the economic crisis in Spain as the local government withdrew its support. The event returned in 2017 and was hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation with Estrella Damm, a beer brewed in Barcelona, as its sponsor. The 2020 event was originally scheduled to be held the first weekend in May but was moved to the first weekend in September because of COVID-19 schedule changes. The 2021 and 2022 events now remain in the same portion of the calendar in the second spot of three straight events in Spain.

The Course

Valderrama, one of the world's great golf courses, plays host this week. It is located on the southeast coast of Spain in San Roque within the resort of Sotogrande. It was designed in 1975 by legendary designer Robert Trent Jones Sr. Valderrama holds the distinction of being the first course in continental Europe to host the Ryder Cup in 1997. It is one of the more challenging courses at any level of professional touring golf despite measuring just a bit over 7,000 yards (par-71). The fairways are Bermuda, and the greens are faster than normal Bentgrass (12.5 stimpmeter). The fairways are more narrow than normal, and the greens are tiny. The rough is not all that challenging, but there are 2,000 cork trees on the layout that will force players to chop out into the fairway if they have errant tee shots.

As you will see below with the winning score variance, pay attention to the weather, particularly to the wind, as it can play a major factor and make an already difficult Valderrama layout even more arduous.

Recent History

2021: Matt Fitzpatrick (-6/278); 14-1

2020: John Catlin (+ 2/286); 125-1

2019: Christiaan Bezuidenhout (-10/274); 80-1

2018: Sergio Garcia (-12/201); 9-2*

2017: Sergio Garcia (-12/272); 5-1

2016: Andrew Johnston (+ 1/281); 100-1**

* weather-shortened event to 54 holes

** 2016 Open de España event

Trends & Angles

  • Dating to Graeme McDowell's 2010 victory at Valderrama, each winner here had at least one top-10 finish or better within six events leading up to this tournament.
  • The last three winners at Valderrama have ranked either first or second in the field during their winning weeks for Strokes Gained: Around The Green.

Selections

​Jordan Smith (28-1, DraftKings)

Smith has seven top-10 finishes on the DP World Tour in 2022.

Antoine Rozner (30-1, Caesars Sportsbook)

Rozner was third at Valderrama two years ago. He has two top-4 finishes (Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and European Masters) in his last five starts.

Richard Mansell (50-1, BetRivers)

Like Smith, Mansell has done everything but win on the DP World Tour this season as he has seven top-10s and three top-5s in the last calendar year.

Adrian Otaegui (55-1, FanDuel)

On a difficult course like Valderrama, an elite short game is paramount and Otaegui has shown that this season, ranking first in Scrambling, third in Sand Saves and sixth for Strokes Gained: Around The Green on the DP World Tour.

Jorge Campillo (80-1, DraftKings)

Another Spaniard who would love to win in his home nation, Campillo is not too far removed from good form with two top-10s in his last six starts.

 

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