Unlike last week’s CJ Cup @Summit, the ZOZO Championship is returning to Asia after a temporary move to the United States in 2020 due to Covid-19 concerns and travel restrictions. The event’s third edition will again be played at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan. Tiger Woods famously won his 82nd Tour event in 2019 to tie Sam Snead for the all-time leader in victories.
Another limited field will feature 78 players made up primarily of the top 60 finishers in the 2021 FedEx Cup standings and qualifying members from the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO), otherwise known as the Japan Tour, co-sanctions the tournament. According to measures 7,041 yards and plays to a par 70, which yielded a 19 under par 261 to Woods in his victory.
Xander Schauffele, who won the Olympic Gold Medal in the Tokyo Games, makes what he hopes will be a triumphant return to the country of what is most likely his greatest career moment. He’ll be joined by Hideki Matsuyama, who will be playing in front of his home fans for the first time since his Masters win in April since his Olympic appearance was played on a course with no spectators present.
Schauffele is the favorite at odds of +600, followed closely by Collin Morikawa at +750, whose late-charging final round 62 came up short of Rory McIlroy in last week’s CJ Cup and who was one of six players to lose in a playoff to C.T. Pan for the Olympic bronze medal at the Olympics. Paul Casey and Matsuyama, who were also involved in that exciting playoff, are at +1400 and +1600, respectively.
Rookie of the Year Will Zalatoris at +1800 is searching for his first PGA Tour victory, while European Ryder Cup member Tommy Fleetwood looks to continue his recent resurgence at +2200. It looked for five holes on Sunday at the CJ Cup that Rickie Fowler would break his two-and-a-half-year victory drought, but a double-bogey derailed his efforts, and he had to settle for a third-place tie but is at a respectable +2500 for the ZOZO.
It’s hard not to go with two-time major champion Morikawa, especially after his play at the Ryder Cup and the performance he put up in last week’s final round to come from seven shots off the pace to challenge for his sixth Tour victory in just his third full year on Tour. Many of the top players in the world are not in attendance for the ZOZO, giving him another legitimate shot at adding to his win total.
Matsuyama was robbed of some of the glory he deserved by not getting the opportunity to play in front of his adoring home country fans, but with 5,000 in attendance each day at Accordia, he may get the push he needs from the partisan gallery to urge him to victory.
Despite failing to deliver on his two-shot third-round lead last week, it appears that Rickie Fowler is close to putting it all together and picking up a sixth PGA Tour victory, with another appearance in a limited field opportunity. Nerves might have gotten to him on his final nine holes of the CJ Cup, but he demonstrated that his game is good enough to carry him to a win.