The ZOZO Championship moves back to its original course at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan after spending one year at Sherwood Country Club in California due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Tiger Woods won the inaugural event in 2019, notching his 82nd victory on Tour to tie Sam Snead for the all-time lead.
Patrick Cantlay won the 2020 ZOZO Championship on his way to the FedEx Cup title, coming from three shots off the pace after round three to defeat Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm by a stroke by closing with a dazzling seven-under par 65. None of the top three from last year are in the limited 78 player field, one which is comprised of golfers that finished in the top 60 in the 2021 FedEx Cup standings, qualifiers from the co-sanctioning Japan Golf Tour Organization, and several sponsor’s exemptions.
Accordia plays to a par 70 at just over 7,000 yards and is the first course in Asia to host a PGA Tour event since the beginning of the pandemic, on which Tiger Woods shot a 19 under par 261 on his way to victory in 2019. It will probably take four rounds in the ’60s and at least one below 65 to have an opportunity to come away with a victory on Sunday in the fourth event of the 2021-2022 wraparound schedule.
Last week, Rickie Fowler took a two-shot lead into the final round of the CJ Cup but ended up getting overtaken by Rory McIlroy, who grabbed his 20th PGA Tour victory after firing a final round 65 to fend off Colling Morikawa and his closing 62. Fowler and Morikawa are both in the ZOZO Championship field this week and could factor into the outcome of the tournament that will allow 5000 spectators a day on the grounds, which will at least give Masters champion beloved Japan native Hideki Matsuyama a chance to feed off his home country fans.
The top four players in the betting odds all played in the Olympic golf tournament, including gold medalist Xander Schauffele at +600, along with fellow American Collin Morikawa at +750, Englishman Paul Casey with odds of +1400, and Matsuyama at +1600, all of whom lost out on the bronze medal to C.T. Pan in a playoff involving seven players. PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Will Zalatoris is next at +1800 and Olympian Tommy Fleetwood who also played for Europe’s Ryder Cup team has odds of +2200.
Next on the list is Rickie Fowler, who appears to be improving in his quest to end a two and a half year PGA Tour victory drought, is at odds of +2500 after teeing off in the CJ Cup last week at odds of +8000. Other notables include Pan at +4500, former Players champion Si Woo Kim at +3500, another Ryder Cupper Branden Grace at +5000, and popular journeyman Harry Higgs with odds of +6500.
Among the several other Japanese players in the field is Satoshi Kodaira, who won the 2018 RBC Heritage Open and has odds of +20000. Despite his difficult 2021 season, he was able to barely make it into the top 150 in the FedEx Cup standings to keep his card for the current campaign and might be a player to watch this week at the ZOZO.