The field at this week’s inaugural Zozo Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Japan is potentially the best of the fall and also likely the most exciting. Joining a big-time crew of favorites, including Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are Tiger Woods and home-country hero Hideki Matsuyama — fresh off his fourth-place finish at The Challenge: Japan Skins.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: Zozo Championship | When: Oct. 23-27
Where: Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club — Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Ranking the field (odds)
- Justin Thomas (15/2): The best player in the world right now.
- Rory McIlroy (8-1): The second-best player in the world right now.
- Xander Schauffele (20-1): Consistently underrated. Last time he was in Asia, won the HSBC.
- Hideki Matsuyama (16-1): Somehow finished higher at the CJ Cup than the skins game.
- Paul Casey (20-1): Three top 11s (including a win) in his last four starts.
- Viktor Hovland (25-1): Four top 11s in his last five starts.
- Collin Morikawa (33-1): I’m smitten. Quite a world that his odds are the same as Tiger’s.
- Tony Finau (28-1): Four top 10s in his last five starts. Way, way overdue.
- Adam Scott (22-1): Four top 20s in his last five starts.
- Gary Woodland (25-1): Quiet top-five finish last week, his first since the U.S. Open win.
Field strength — A: It should tell you something that neither Tiger nor Spieth make the cut here. Normally they would make it on name alone, but not in a field like this one. Spieth, by the way, was good last week, but he finished 50th in greens in regulation and first in putts per green in regulation. I’d rather see those numbers flipped around.
Three things to know
1. Tiger’s 2019-20 debut: It’s been surprisingly (?) undercovered this week (possibly because of the time difference and locale), but I’m at least mildly curious to see how Tiger looks in a competitive event following his most recent knee surgery. My expectations aren’t high between the surgery and the way he finished last season, but Tiger has made a career (and a ton of money) in blowing expectations out of the water.
2. Multiple greens: This is a nuance to the course and maybe only interesting to me, but I’m curious to see how the multi-green holes play at this tournament. We got a taste of it during the skins competition over the weekend, but it’ll be much different with so much cash on the line this week at this no-cut event.
3. Caps-lock slam: I’ve become obsessed with this. After winning last week’s CJ CUP AT NINE BRIDGES, Justin Thomas has an inside track on the five-event slam this season. With another win at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP this week, the hunt would officially be on. It would undoubtedly result in a ticker-tape parade down the streets of Manhattan like Bobby Jones 100 years ago, and I would be there covering every step of it.
- Inaugural event
Zozo Championship picks
Winner: Xander Schauffele (20-1) — It seems like he always shows up, wins one of these small-field events at a weird time of the year and we’re all like, “Oh yeah, Xander is one of the eight best golfers on the planet.” That’s how I envision this week going.
Top 10: Justin Thomas (-140) — He’s a comical -140 to top 10 this week in Japan, but what are you going to do? I wouldn’t be surprised if he touches off the second leg of the caps-lock slam.
Sleeper: Ben An (40-1) — T6 last week on Jeju Island, and as Eric Patterson pointed out on our latest podcast, An was 7th in strokes gained tee to green on the PGA Tour last season. Seventh!
So who wins the Zozo Championship, and which long shots stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected Zozo Championship leaderboard from the model that’s nailed six golf majors, and find out.