I began my Sunday watching a set by Japanese Breakfast at Austin City Limits (they’re fantastic), which feels like some nice symbolism ahead of the main course this week, the ZOZO Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Japan. I’m 2-for-2 on outrights in Japan golf events between the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and the last ZOZO Championship, so a three-peat is at stake this week with some positive momentum from Tom Kim’s heroics at the Shriners Children’s Open. As always, we start with a weekly preview looking at this week’s PGA TOUR odds.
We’ll have one of the most pristine and picturesque golf courses on the PGA TOUR schedule on tap in Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club. Despite the short yardage, it imposes a stern test to this limited field of 78 players. Bogey avoidance stands at a premium and the course rewards the most skilled ball strikers. Although we operate without the aid of strokes gained data from ShotLink here, this is not a course where players have discovered their games. So I’ll weight recent form much heavier than for the recent birdie fest events we’ve seen in the Fall Swing.
Now let’s get into the key facts and info about Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club ahead of the 2022 ZOZO Championship.
Note: This event is officially called the 2023 ZOZO Championship as part of the 2022-23 season.
ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES
To compare PGA TOUR odds in legal sports betting states, as well as other ZOZO Championship offerings, scroll to the bottom of this post.
ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: FIELD AT A GLANCE
If the PGA TOUR’s position in the global game of golf has been put to question, the ZOZO Championship is its answer. Many of its brightest stars have made the trip to the other side of the globe to make their 2022-23 season debuts. We’ll see seven of the OWGR top-20 rated players in the world tee it up.
Xander Schauffele is the highest ranked player in the field, and will be poised to contend after a breakthrough 2021-22 campaign. He’s been outspoken about his Japanese heritage, a motivating factor when earning the gold medal at Kasumigaseki for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. He’ll be joined by some big names including Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Cameron Young, Hideki Matsuyama and Tom Kim as the field’s headliners.
Hideki Matsuyama put on a show in front of the Japanese faithful this time last year. It should be a fun scene to watch as he returns home to defend his title. Patrick Cantlay and Tiger Woods won in the first two years of this event’s history, but will not make the trip to Japan this time around. Of note, Cantlay’s ZOZO Championship victory in 2020 came at Sherwood Country Club in California. Don’t use this for reference when handicapping the tournament ahead.
INTRODUCTION TO ACCORDIA GOLF NARASHINO COUNTRY CLUB
Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club is a picturesque private golf course in Shiba, Japan. It hosted Japan Tour tournaments from 1968-1977. In 2019, it became an official stop on the PGA TOUR schedule, as part of the PGA TOUR’s efforts to expand its footprint more globally. With the deprecation of WGC events, the ZOZO Championship is the only Asia event that remains on the PGA TOUR schedule in 2022-23.
This will be the third installment of the ZOZO Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club. It will be an impossible task to live up to the first two, as the inaugural event in 2020 was won by none other than Tiger Woods. The next event, after a stateside relocation due to COVID-19, went to local superstar Hideki Matsuyama in his first appearance at a PGA TOUR event in Japan since winning the Masters.
With all the fireworks that have preceded this tournament, we should expect large, engaged crowds. They will undoubtedly fixate on defending champion Matsuyama for all four days. In addition to Matsuyama, we’ll see a dozen top players exempt from the Japan Tour, with Kazuki Higa, Takumi Kanaya and Keita Nakajima highlighting the list of local favorites.
In short, Narashino is a narrow, tree-lined course with a diverse layout of holes that will test a multitude of shots throughout a player’s bag. It features an even distribution of holes with distance as beneficial as accuracy. Complex bunkers and water hazards line these fairways, so the top ball-strikers should rise to the top. Pristine and pure greens mean less guess work to reading them, which has leveled the playing field for lesser putters like Matsuyama, Brendan Steele, Corey Conners and Keegan Bradley.
How It Breaks Down
Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club is a short par 70 playing to 7,041 yards on the scorecard, with unique layout of five par 3s, 10 par 4s, and three par 5s. The “short” yardage, however, misleads. None of the par 3s are particularly long, with all measuring below 200 yards. With five par-4s measuring over 485 yards, there is some sneaky length to this course which will place a premium on proximity from 175+ in order to find birdie opportunities.
Every hole at Narashino has two sets of greens, one bentgrass, and the other a Bermuda/Zoysia blend. This helps the golf course handle extreme seasonal weather changes between the cold winters (bent) and harsh, dry summers (Bermuda/Zoysia). This week, with temperatures beginning to cool down, they’ll favor the bentgrass greens.
As a stark contrast to TPC Summerlin, Narashino poses a stern tee-to-green test. In its first two years hosting the PGA TOUR, has produced leaderboards that reward top ball strikers with the ability to scramble for par saves when needed. Outside the confines of the United States, we unfortunately do not have the luxury of ShotLink and strokes gained data to compare with other PGA TOUR stops. With that said, it’ll be an important week to reference a combination of recent form, comp course history, and scoring in moderate to difficult conditions.
NARASHINO GOLF ACCORDIA COUNTRY CLUB COURSE SPECS
- Yards: 7,041
- Par: 70 (5x 3s / 10x 4s / 3x 5s)
- Greens: Bent
- Architect: Kinya Fujita
- Comp Courses: Kasumigaseki CC, Sheshan International GC, Nine Bridges, TPC Kuala Lumpur, Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass, Colonial, Waialae CC
- Historical Cut Line: N/A
- Median Four-Round Score: +1 (’22), -2 (’20)
- Past Winners: Hideki Matsuyama -15 (’22), Tiger Woods -19 (’20)
- Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
The spotlight is always on Hideki Matsuyama whenever he sets foot in Japan. That was amplified when he won the Masters in 2021 and will now reach a fever pitch. One of the most decorated athletes in Japanese sports returns to defend his title.
Over just two years, only five players have recorded top-25 finishes in each: Matsuyama, Corey Conners, Keegan Bradley, Collin Morikawa, and Tommy Fleetwood. Additionally, Brendan Steele, Danny Lee, Sungjae Im, Mackenzie Hughes, Matt Wallace, Takumi Kanaya, Luke List and Sam Ryder have each notably finished top 10 in their one prior appearance at Narashino Golf Accordia Country Club.
The top 10 in SG: TOT at the ZOZO Championship over its first two years in Japan are Matsuyama, Steele, Sungjae Im, Conners, Wallace, Bradley, Sebastian Munoz, Hughes, Fleetwood, and Morikawa.
It’s difficult to confidently identify accurate course comps for this week, given the absence of ShotLink data and a sample size of only two years. Matsuyama is the only player who has excelled here in both 2019 and 2021. Waialae CC would seem the top option, as Matsuyama picked up wins on both courses last season. Each feature short distance, and at least subjectively, require a long flight deep into the Pacific. Steele has also delivered strong result with limited reps at both to support the trend.
On the basis of short game alone, there is some merit to referencing performance at Augusta National, as each play on pure, pristine bentgrass greens. Matsuyama has of course won at Augusta as well, and the trend of strong overlapping play extends to other names like Im, Xander Schauffele, Conners, and Munoz.
Beyond these comps, it would seem just as important to identify players who can travel overseas to Asia and perform well. From the overseas angle, I’m looking at performance at Kasumigaseki, Nine Bridges, Sheshan International and TPC Kuala Lumpur.
With this being a treelined, positional par-70 course under 7,200 yards, performance at Colonial CC, Shadow Creek and TPC Sawgrass should serve as solid comps from the PGA TOUR.
Combine performance across this list and the top-10 players in Comp Course History here are Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Corey Conners, Keegan Bradley, Collin Morikawa, Sebastian Munoz, Viktor Hovland, Davis Riley, Tyrrell Hatton and Si Woo Kim.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BETTING PGA TOUR ODDS
- SG: APP / SG: Ball Striking
- Prox: 175+
- Good Drives Gained
- Scrambling Gained / Bogey Avoidance
- Par-3 Scoring
- Par-5: 550-600
- SG: T2G (<7,200 Yards & Difficult Scoring Conditions)
- SG: P (L36)
- Course & Comp Course History
Whenever we get to a course without strokes gained data from prior years, I tend to take a broader approach with stat modeling for more tried and true stats.
As with any professional golf event, we know approach play will remain important. The top 10 in terms of SG: APP include Xander Schauffele, Mark Hubbard, Lee Hodges, Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa, Brendan Steele, Mito Pereira, Tom Kim, Chez Reavie and Corey Conners. Between the layout of the three par 5s, five long par 4s, and one long par 3, we can deduce that about half the holes this week will funnel approach shots from the 175+ yard range. The top 10 players in Prox 175+ are Cam Davis, Steele, Morikawa, Schauffele, Sungjae Im, Viktor Hovland, Cameron Young, Callum Tarren, Davis Riley and Pereira.
A heavily tree-lined golf course with penal, inconsistent rough puts a premium on total ball striking. The top 10 in terms of SG: Ball Striking are Steele, Schauffele, Im, Conners, Luke List, Pereira, Young, Morikawa, Emiliano Grillo, and Matsuyama. Good Drives Gained is another stat I target to isolate the players most in control of their tee shots. The top 10 in this category are Conners, Pereira, Im, Morikawa, Schauffele, Reavie, Kim, Grillo, Satoshi Kodaira and Kevin Streelman.
Adding It Up
Just four players rank top 30 in SG: Ball Striking, Scrambling Gained, Bogey Avoidance and SG: T2G (Difficult Scoring Conditions): Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Cam Davis and Adam Long.
The ideal player for this week should rank above-average in SG: T2G, SG: Ball Striking, Scrambling Gained, Bogey Avoidance, and SG: T2G (<7,200 Yards & Difficult Scoring Conditions). Eight players fit that criteria: Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, Cam Davis, Adam Long, Kevin Streelman, Lee Hodges, Cameron Young and Sungjae Im.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: SUNGJAE IM
The 2021 ZOZO Championship saw two elite, in-form stars in Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa open at about +750 apiece. That opened the door for value in a secondary tier for Hideki Matsuyama. He went on to win as a fairly popular outright bet. This week, the presence of Schauffele, Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim and Matsuyama,should allow for some bettable odds on the No. 20 player in the world, despite the stellar recent form and history on this golf course.
It’s something of a home game for Sungjae Im. Narashino sits about 800 miles from his homeland in South Korea, the equivalent of a trip from Chicago to New York. Im has enjoyed his time playing in this corner of the world, first with a T3 in his debut at this event in 2019 along with a T11 at the 2020 WGC HSBC Championship in China (his only other PGA TOUR appearance in Asia).
Im enters this week on a streak of six consecutive T20 finishes and seems poised to continue that trend in this limited field. He ranks No. 1 in my model by a significant margin, rating out top 15 in every key metric I used. I intend to construct my betting card around him when odds open on Monday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2022-23 ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
Primetime golf is in store this week, as I prepare my body clock to (hopefully) stay up past midnight for a Sunday sweat in Japan. In its first two years on the PGA TOUR schedule, the ZOZO Championship has had a perfect run, producing Tiger Woods and Hideki Matsuyama as its first two winners, so we should be in for a treat as many of the best golfers in the world will tee up on the other side of the globe.
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the PGA TOUR odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.
In my model, I’m emphasizing SG: APP, Prox 175+, Good Drives Gained, Comp Course History, SG: TOT (<7,200 Yards & Difficult Scoring) and Bogey Avoidance, followed by a more balanced mix of P5: 550-600, Par-3 Scoring, SG: Ball Striking and SG: Short Game.
According to my model, Sungjae Im ranks No. 1 overall for the second week in a row. He sits top five in the key metrics of SG: T2G, Course History, SG: T2G (Short & Difficult courses), SG: Ball Striking and Good Drives Gained.
After him, the rest of my model’s top 10 features Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, Cam Davis, Mito Pereira, Aaron Wise, Corey Conners, Collin Morikawa and Keegan Bradley.
When odds open on Monday, I’ll look to build my card around Im, Davis and Emiliano Grillo. Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck betting PGA TOUR odds!
COMPLETE PGA TOUR ODDS: ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
Use this table to find the best PGA TOUR odds across legal sportsbooks in your state.