The PGA Tour schedule gets a mixup with a 78-golfer, no-cut event this week, so it's a bit of a different vibe than the typical fall swing events we've been experiencing.
Headlining the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP is Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Cameron Young, and last week's winner, Tom Kim.
Let's dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
Course Information and Key Stats
Golfers With Great Course History
Daily Fantasy Picks
Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,079 (short: ~140 yards shorter than the average par 70)
Fairway Width: N/A
Average Green Size: N/A
Green Type: N/A
Past 5 Winning Scores: -15, -19
Past 5 Cut Lines: No Cut
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (emphasis on Driving Distance), Strokes Gained: Putting, Birdie or Better, Adjusted Strokes Gained (to account for international players without PGA Tour samples)
Be careful not to account for the 2021 ZOZO Championship (the one held in October 2020, which was held at Sherwood Country Club).
We have no strokes gained data from the two events at Accordia (last year's ZOZO and the one in 2019 [for the 2020 season]). We also lack bankable basic stats from this setup. So, we can do only so much in really extrapolating what matters most at Accordia.
Of note, the -15 and -19 scores are a bit misleading. Hideki Matsuyama won last year at -15 -- and he did so by five shots. In 2019 (the 2020 season), Tiger Woods won at -19; he beat Matsuyama by 3 shots, and Matsuyama beat everyone else by 3. That means the runners-up were at -10 and -16.
Notably, datagolf's course fit tool implies an emphasis on driving distance despite the overall length of the course.
When we look at the list of golfers with great form here, it'll become obvious that the best ball-strikers win out, so I'll emphasize strokes gained: approach and strokes gained: off the tee as usual.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
The best strokes gained averages at this course among golfers with both starts:
- Hideki Matsuyama (+3.87: 1st and solo 2nd)
- Keegan Bradley (+1.62: 7th and 13th)
- Tommy Fleetwood (+1.37: 7th and 22nd)
- Collin Morikawa (+1.37: 7th and 22nd)
- Xander Schauffele (+1.12: 28th and 10th)
- Adam Schenk (+0.74: 28th and 22nd)
- Si Woo Kim (+0.49: 18th and 37th)
- Troy Merritt (+0.49: 28th and 30th)
- Wyndham Clark (+0.12: 25th and 46th)
Golfers in the field with a top-10 in their lone start:
2020 Season: Sungjae Im (3rd), Corey Conners (6th), and Danny Lee (10th)
2022 Season: Brendan Steele (2nd); Mackenzie Hughes, Sebastian Munoz, Matt Wallace (4th); Luke List, Sam Ryder, Takumi Kanaya (7th)
The lone winner in the field is Matsuyama, the defending champion.
Win Simulations for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their golf betting odds this week at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
The model likes Xander Schauffele at around +900, so a +850 number is fair enough to consider if you're all right with a slightly negative expected value bet (assuming the model is perfect). Point being: bet Xander if you want; it's not a terrible number.
There's early-week value on Cameron Young (+1600) and Viktor Hovland (+2200), two bets I've already made.
Keegan Bradley (+2900) is a likely top-10 target of mine this week, and the same can be said for Scott Stallings (+4000) and Cameron Davis (+4200). All are viable for outrights.
The farthest down I can see myself going for an outright would be Kurt Kitayama (+6000). No-cut events bring out the best in the field over four guaranteed rounds, so an upset winner over a top-heavy field seems unlikely. The sims bear that out, as well.
Top-10 bets the model likes: Viktor Hovland (+230), Stallings (+410), Young (+140), Bradley (+330), Alex Smalley (+800), Mito Pereira (+350), Davis (+370).
First-round leaders the model likes: Young (+2900), Beau Hossler (+9500), Bradley (+3400), Hovland (+2900), Stallings (+4200), and Lee Hodges (+8000). These are all partial-unit leans.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
All stats cited below originate at datagolf and reference ranks relative to the field over the past 50 rounds. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Xander Schauffele (FanDuel Salary: $12,000 | Golf betting odds: +850) - The best process play this week is a bit of a no-cut specialist in Xander Schauffele. Xander is the absolute best play in my combo model by quite a margin, and I don't want to overthink it. He won the Olympic gold medal in Japan and sits first in the field in total strokes gained average, strokes gained: approach, and strokes gained: tee to green. He's also top-20 in both driving stats over the past 50 rounds. There's not a hole in his game, and that's why he can contend so well in no-cut formats.
Cameron Young ($10,900 | +1600) - If distance matters, then Young gets a boost. If that's the case, then he's under-salaried and makes for a good balanced build option. Young is the longest driver in the field and ultimately ranks third in the field in strokes gained: tee to green over the past 50 rounds. The win simulation model likes him a lot relative to the salary, and it's supported by the underlying stats.
Others to Consider:
Sungjae Im ($11,700 | +1200) - Ranks top-12 in both ball-striking stats and is 30th in distance gained over the past 50 rounds; 3rd here in 2019.
Viktor Hovland ($10,800 | +2100) - Likely forgotten by the public; 13th in ball-striking, and that seems to matter here.
Corey Conners ($10,300 | +2600) - Finished sixth here in 2019; top-seven in both ball-striking stats.
Mito Pereira ($9,700 | +3700) - The salary is up from $8,200 last week when Pereira finished T4 at the Shriners Children's Open. Pereira is a plus in both distance and accuracy while holding top-three irons and top-seven ball-striking overall. The short game has bogged down his results otherwise, and that's still leading to a likely too-low salary for this week's event.
Cameron Davis ($9,500 | +4200) - Selling out for distance would lead us to Cam Davis. He ranks sixth in the field in distance over the past 50 rounds and ranks 15th in strokes gained: ball-striking. Davis is a virtual lock to gain strokes off the tee, and he's also top-25 in the other strokes gained stats. He's the only one in the mid-range who can make that claim. Only Schauffele can say the same at any salary.
Others to Consider:
Keegan Bradley ($9,900 | +3700) - Has two good finishes here at a ball-striker's course; 14th in ball-striking over the past 50 rounds.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee ($9,500 | +4500) - One of four in the mid-range to rank top-30 in both ball-striking and short-game.
Scott Stallings ($9,600 | +4000) - The second-best win odds in my model among the $9,000 range but not great gaining off the tee.
Mark Hubbard ($9,000 | +6500) - It would be easy to cross off Hubbard if we looked solely at driving distance (he's 57th in this small field in distance gained), but then we'd be missing out on top-10 irons and top-20 putting stats over the past 50 rounds. Homeless Hubbs has three top-five results over his past 14 starts, too, so the upside is there in the right setups. With is irons, he can float toward the top of the field through four rounds.
Kurt Kitayama ($8,500 | +8000) - The missed cut last week can be explained by strokes gained: putting. That and he hasn't been good at the Shriners in the past. This week, though the stats should be there. He's long off the tee (4th) and has positive ball-striking (20th overall). He's the only golfer below $9,000 with better than a 1.0% win probability in my model based on the early-week runs.
Others to Consider:
Andrew Putnam ($8,900 | +6000) - Game centered on irons and putting, the two stats that lead to big volatility, a great combo in a no-cut setup.
Alex Smalley ($8,600 | +8,600) - Top-16 irons and distance; win sims like him well enough.
Cameron Champ ($8,400 | +8000) - Has length (2nd) and generally good underlying putting data.
Wyndham Clark ($8,300 | +8000) - Long off the tee; irons have been bad but hasn't played Shriners or Sanderson Farms well in the past anyway.