The PGA Tour went International this past weekend with the Zozo Championship in Chiba, Japan. Despite the long travel haul, this would be the Tour’s most competitive event to date, but it was Keegan Bradley pulling off the win to cash in at fairly long +3700 odds.
This is a fairly young event, and in fact it’s only been held at the Narashino CC twice, with Tiger Woods winning the inaugural event in 2019 and local favorite Hideki Matsuyama taking home the title last season. The 2020 event was held in California due to the COVID pandemic, with Patrick Cantlay picking up the victory.
Long Wait for Bradley
Bradley is as close to a ‘second tier’ household name as you can get as a former Major championship winner, as well as being on winning Ryder and Presidents Cup teams in the past. It had been 100 starts – 1,498 days – since Bradley last tasted victory at the 2018 BMW Championship, so it was an emotional victory for the 36-year-old.
It’s been a solid start to the year for Bradley, who climbed to the top of the FedEx Cup Standings with his win in Japan. He also tied for fifth at the Sanderson Farms Championship after having just three top fives all of the 2021/22 season, so it looks like the veteran still has something in the tank.
Fowler Still Waits
While it was nice to see Bradley snap his winless drought, many were clamoring for fan favorite Rickie Fowler to pick up his first win since the 2019 Phoenix Open. Fowler was +5500 entering the weekend, which looked like a nice ticket to have after he took the 54-hole lead on Saturday. Fowler shot his worst round of the weekend on Sunday (70), which allowed Bradley to sneak in for the one-stroke win.
Fowler still made a solid impression this weekend, going viral on social media for signing autographs for every young fan that asked after Saturday’s round. Fowler has a new caddie in Ricky Romano and a new swing coach in Butch Harmon, and that team has a second in Japan and a sixth at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, so this could be a resurgent year for the 33-year-old.
Big Names Fall Short
Heading into the weekend, this looked like Xander Schauffele’s tournament to win as a +850 favorite. Schauffele was playing his first event of the fall tour and finished hot to end 2021/22. He didn’t shoot under 70 all weekend and made a nice charge with a 65 on Sunday but that could only get him up to ninth place.
Sungae Im was +1200 and defending champion Matsuyama +1600 prior to Thursday’s open, but both shot 71s in the first 18 and never really contended after that. Im finished 29th and Matsuyama 40th.
Sportsbooks are probably happy that Tom Kim (+1600) could rally for no higher than 25th. He was a heavily bet golfer this weekend after his breakout performance on the Saturday Presidents Cup matches and then his victory last week at the Shriners Childrens Open. The 20-year-old is the fastest to two wins since Tiger Woods.
Collin Morikawa (+1400) and Cameron Young (+1600) were both on the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team, but neither could crack the top 40 this past weekend.
Andrew Putnam tied for second with Fowler, so somebody holding that +6000 ticket fell just short of a very profitable weekend.