The PGA travels back across the globe to Japan this week for the fourth edition of the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.
Japan will host the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP for the third time this week after the 2020 rendition of the event took place at Sherwood C.C. as a result of the pandemic.
The tournament was added to the PGA calendar for the first time back in 2019 with the Tour looking to expand its global presence. Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Inzai, Chiba, Japan, has hosted the previous two editions of this event and will do so again in 2022.
This week’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP will be the only PGA event taking place in Asia this season with next week’s CJ Cup taking place in South Carolina instead.
The limited 78-man field teeing it up in this year’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP is by far the strongest field of the young season to date. Six of the top 20 in the OWGR have traversed the globe for this week’s event at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club.
Xander Schauffele, the highest-ranked player per the OWGR in this year’s field, will tee it up for the first time since the Presidents Cup several weeks ago. Both Collin Morikawa, and last year’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP winner, Hideki Matsuyama, will also be making their first starts since the Presidents Cup this week.
Other notable names in this week’s field include last week’s Shriners Children’s Open winner Tom Kim, Sungjae Im, Cameron Young, Viktor Hovland, and Tommy Fleetwood.
Kinya Fujita’s Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club is a spectacular Par 70 design that plays at right around 7,000 yards in length. The course, which features a unique blend of five Par 3s and three Par 5s, is one of the most visually stunning locales that players will see this season.
Tiger Woods won the inaugural edition of the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP back in 2019 at -19, and Hideki Matsuyama won on home soil last year with a final tally of -15.
Surprisingly, last year’s champion does not enter the week as the oddsmaker’s favorite to repeat in this year’s event. Instead, it is Xander Schauffele, the 2021 Olympic gold medalist in Japan, who leads the way.
Here is how the rest of the top favorites shake out this week over on WynnBet.
2022 ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP FAVORITES
(Odds courtesy of WynnBet. **Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.**)
- Xander Schauffele (+850)
- Sungjae Im (+1100)
- Hideki Matsuyama (+1200)
- Tom Kim (+1200)
- Collin Morikawa (+1400)
- Cameron Young (+1600)
- Viktor Hovland (+1800)
- Corey Conners (+2200)
- Tyrrell Hatton (+2200)
- Tommy Fleetwood (+2500)
Pick to Top 20: Sepp Straka (+200)
Straka ended last season on the PGA Tour on a nice little run that culminated with a spot at the season-finale Tour Championship in Atlanta. He didn’t waste any time picking up right where he left off to begin the new season either.
The Austrian lost out to Mackenzie Hughes in a playoff at the Sanderson Farms Championship a couple of weeks ago in what was his first start of the new season.
Unfortunately for Straka, it was the second time in four starts that he was beaten to the winner’s circle by his opponent in a playoff. Sepp also narrowly missed out at the FedEx St. Jude Championship when he was beaten by Will Zalatoris this past August.
Elite ball-strikers have found success at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in recent years, an area that Straka has excelled in dating back to last season’s Wyndham Championship. Since then, the 2022 Honda Classic champion has gained strokes with his irons in his last four consecutive starts.
The University of Georgia alum excelled at the Olympic competition held in Japan back in 2021 where he was the leader after round one of the men’s golf competition before eventually finishing 10th.
Straka is clearly comfortable in this part of the world and he comes into this year’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in excellent form, for those reasons I like him to contend again this week.
Pick to Top 10: Mito Pereira (+360)
Chilean, Mito Pereira announced himself to the global audience last season when he found himself in contention at the 2022 PGA Championship before a costly error down the last cost him his first major.
The 27-year-old hit a bit of a slump in the summer when he missed four consecutive cuts and failed to record a finish of better than 42nd in six starts.
It took a while, but it appears that Pereira has finally turned a corner once again, and after a solid showing at the Presidents Cup he was excellent again last week at the Shriners Children’s Open where he secured his first top-10 finish since the Charles Schwab Challenge back in May.
Mito will make his ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP debut this week, though just like Straka, he also found success at the Olympic golf competition in 2021.
Pereira was part of the epic seven-man playoff for the bronze medal that week. Things didn’t break his way that time with C.T. Pan claiming the bronze, but nonetheless, it was a great week for Mito.
The Chilean finished last season on the PGA Tour ranked 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and though it is early, after four rounds of the new season he is currently first in that department.
This courtesy of an incredible week with his irons in Vegas where he gained over nine strokes. He also gained over nine strokes from tee to green overall so his game is clearly in an excellent spot coming into this week’s event. Mito can contend once again in Japan this week.
Pick to Win: Sungjae Im (+1100)
Sungjae is one of the favorites to win this week and for good reason. After finishing last season with a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship, Im had a solid Presidents Cup where he went 2-1-1 in the competition against the United States team at Quail Hollow. That record included a Sunday singles win over Cameron Young by a 1UP margin.
The South Korean followed that up with another solid showing last week at TPC Summerlin where he finished 7th in defense of the title he won last year. Sungjae gained strokes in every area last week, this included gaining over eight strokes from tee to green.
The 24-year-old really has the complete skillset to contend on a track like Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club. This was evident when Im finished 3rd in the inaugural edition of the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in 2019.
Sungjae ended last season on the PGA Tour ranked 9th in Strokes Gained: Tee to green, 9th in greens in regulation percentage, 8th in SG: Off the tee, and 12th from around the green.
He has already demonstrated signs of carrying a bunch of that over into the new season. If Im brings his complete game to the table this week he could make it back-to-back weeks of South Korean winners on the PGA Tour.