We’ve got a somewhat unique event on the golf scorecard this weekend as the PGA Tour heads to the Narashino CC in Japan for the Zozo Championship.
This is the first tournament the Tour has ever sanctioned in Japan, and there’s not a whole lot of course history to evaluate since the event has only been held at this location twice in history.
Hideki Matsuyama is the defending champion, and he also finished second to Tiger Woods in the inaugural event in 2019. Patrick Cantlay has a Zozo Championship win in 2020, but it almost cannot even be considered the same tournament considering it was held in Sherwood, California, due to COVID travel concerns.
This is the fourth event on the fall leg of the 2022/23 schedule and features a limited field of 78 players with no cuts. Seven of the top 20 OWGR players are in Shiba for the weekend, and 13 of the 24 golfers who participated in the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow are in action here.
About the Zozo Championship
As the PGA tries to grow their brand on the international level, the Zozo Championship was concocted in a historic partnership with the Japan Golf Tour.
They couldn’t have asked for a better debut event in 2019, with the iconic Tiger Woods outdueling the native countryman Matsuyama for the win. Matsuyama would get redemption, picking up the win by five strokes in 2021.
Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club
Narashino CC is a somewhat unique course, with all five of the par 3’s being short but half of the par 4’s being on the long side. Woods won at -19 here in 2019, and Matsuyama shot -15 in 2021, so it is possible to get some low scores.
Matsuyama shot an opening round 64 here last year, but it was a couple of his fellow countrymen who tied for the low round of the weekend with Naoto Nakanishi and Hiroshi Iwata with respective 63s.
Course management has some options for adjustment this weekend, as each hole at Narashino features two sets of greens due to the Japanese weather having extreme disparities.
Depending on this weekend’s temperatures, golfers could be putting on either bentgrass or a bermuda blend, so the best overall flat stick players have an edge here.
The Zozo Championship Field
A couple of American players making their fall debuts sit near the top of the odds boards this weekend, and they both have some Japanese ties. Xander Schauffele is the +800 favorite, and he not only won the gold medal in Tokyo in 2021, but his mother also grew up in Japan.
Collin Morikawa is +1400 in Zozo Championship odds, and although he was born in L.A., he also has some Chinese-Japanese descent.
Matsuyama (+1200) will be a popular betting pick this weekend as the local hero who has a second and a first-place finish when this event has been held at Narashino.
20-year-old Tom Kim (+1400) will also command a lot of attention at the wagering window too, as he might already be the new face of the PGA after his big Presidents Cup showing and while winning the Shriners Children’s Open last week.