DraftKings Preview for The 2021 zozo championship
Morikawa, Schauffele, and Matsuyama headline the ZOZO championship as golf returns to japan
A quick turnaround for the PGA Tour this week as the players head overseas to Asia where the tour has not visited since before Covid-19 and we saw Tiger Woods in the winner's circle. Golf fans will enjoy coverage a day early as well as the 2021 Zozo Championship kicks off Wednesday on this side of the pond at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. Let's get you set to see some green screens on DraftKings this weekend.
What's up golf addicts! AC here, checking in week to week to provide a quick preview of the upcoming PGA Tour event. I’ll give you the lowdown on the course, the players, some key stats, and our favorite DraftKings picks for the week.
The Zozo Championship sets up very similar to last week's CJ Cup @ Summit which Rory McIlroy came out on top of. The 78 player field set The Summit Club in Las Vegas ablaze with some scorching under par rounds. Both Robert Streb and Emiliano Grillo tied the course record with 11-under par scores of 61. We even saw the emergence of Rickie Fowler who led after 54 holes and Collin Morikawa making a charge on Sunday at his home course. Send your condolences to DB who had to face Keith Mitchell coming up short betting-wise (Killa Keith did destroy the DK slate though) but also chalk bomb Kawa finishing runner-up.
The Field and Tournament Details for the Zozo Championship
Speaking of Kawa, he will make the trip to Japan with a group of PGA Tour regulars and will be joined by the best golfers Japan has to offer including 2021 Masters champ and pride of Japan, Hideki Matsuyama. We last saw Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in 2019 when Tiger Woods won the inaugural Zozo Championship, shooting -19 and winning by three strokes over Matsuyama. Last year the event was moved to Sherwood Country Club in California because of the pandemic. Patrick Cantlay was the victor there.
There will be 78 players in the field this week with no cut. The field will consist of the available top 60 players in last season's FedEx Cup standings, standouts from the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO), and sponsor exemptions which we know have been issued to reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the year Will Zalatoris, Wesley Bryan, and Tommy Fleetwood.
Sadly we will not see Tiger in the field. Nor Cantlay. We will however get the Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele, local favorite Matsuyama, Zalatoris, and Fleetwood in the $10ks and up. We did have Paul Casey in the field but he WD on Monday. Joaquin Niemann, Fowler, Alex Noren, Si Woo Kim, Erik Van Rooyen, Keegan Bradley, Maverick McNealy, Cameron Tringale, Grillo, and Mackenzie Hughes round out the $9k options.
**The event is taking place in Japan meaning lineup lock will be about 12 hours before the normal Thursday North American start time.**
Narashino Country Club key stats & Course Breakdown
Narashino Country Club opened in 1965 and is part of Accordia Golf which would be similar to the TPC Netowrk managed by the PGA Tour in North America. This week the course will play as a just over 7,000 yard par 70. Built around the city of Chiba, Japan, the architects did a great job at tucking it away.
Large and lush trees surround the course and line the fairways. Just see the highlights from 2019 where even Tiger was the benefactor of many a favorable bounce. The main defenses of the course are narrow-ish fairways and small undulated greens with a bit of water in play and some tricky bunkers. Narashino CC is a bit of a different par 70 setup being that it features five par 3s and 3 par fives.
Like many Japanese courses, Narashino CC features two sets of greens for each hole. Typically both greens have different grass types so golf can be enjoyed year round. One set is bentgrass while the other is Korai. This also makes things interesting for tournament setups with the course staff having a lot of options for pin placements. Zoysiagrass is also very prominent in Japan and will be found throughout the course this week.
Key Stats for Narashino CC
Unfortunately, we do not have any strokes gained data for the 2019 edition of the Zozo Championship and 2020 being played in the US isn't much help either. Old fashioned style it is! The first takeaways from Tiger's win was how stellar he was with the flatstick. No surprise as he was always a fantastic putter but putting proved to be an important stat for all the guys in contention. Greens in regulation was next up and beyond that, driving accuracy was key.
When there isn't much history to go on, we like to fall back on recent form and overall ball striking. Strokes gained approach, Fantasy National's opps gained and good drives gained, birdie or better %, and putting on bentgrass are my favorites to look at this week. With the unique set up for the course we can put a little more emphasis on course fit. Par 3 scoring under 200 yards, par 5 scoring over 550 yards and overall par 4 scoring will give a good idea to course fit.
As of now, the weather looks pretty tame. There may be some rain for the first two days but wind does not appear to be gusty. That can always change and may come into play for single round showdown. There may be a slight PM/AM wave advantage early in the week but with a no cut event that becomes less important due to the tee times being so condensed.
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The Picks & Fades
Each week we will give you some plays and a fade from each DraftKings salary range. For all of DB and Pat’s thoughts and picks make sure to check out and subscribe to the Tour Junkies Podcast.
To Play or Not to Play Brooks Koepka
Brooksy is not in the field this week
$9K & Above
- DB: Play - Will Zalatoris | Fade - Tommy Fleetwood
- Pat: Play - Will Zalatoris | Fade - Tommy Fleetwood
- AC: Play - Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Alex Noren | Fade - Tommy Fleetwood
I believe this will be a battle between the two best players in the field on Sunday and even if there ownership climbs a bit high, there is enough leverage to be found. Morikawa and Schauffele both have ties to Japan and each delivered at the Olympic games just a few months ago. Noren is an easy pick for me. One of the best bent putters out there and has the ability to pop. The price is steep but that's just a consequence of the field strength.
I looked around for someone else to fade and with the travel, etc there are definitely some hazards in this range. Ultimately, I sided with the boys and don't see Fleetwood being competitive at the top this week.
- DB: Play - KH Lee | Fade - Lanto Griffin
- Pat: Play - CT Pan | Fade - Ryan Palmer
- AC: Play - Adam Schenk, Chris Kirk | Fade - Matt Wallace
Schenk was an auto-play for me once I saw him in the field and I can live with the price tag. Guy has been a stud over the last few months and will also benefit from a T22 here in 2019. Kirk was the last player I removed from this article last week and just didn't get him in play. He played really well and think he can carry a bit of the momentum into a field where he is well above average.
There are always a bunch of potential fades in the $8k for me. It is the weirdest range every week. I swapped Wallace and Palmer around but even though Palmer hasn't been playing well recently, he did T10 here in 2019. Wallace doesn't have any experience and has been underperforming for a while albeit the T14 a couple weeks ago. The fact is, if you want guys at the top, picking out of this range is going to be a challenge.
- DB: Play - Luke List | Fade - Garrick Higgo
- Pat: Play - Henrik Norlander | Fade - Sebastien Munoz
- AC: Play - Luke List, Brendon Todd, Takumi Kanaya, | Fade - Henrik Norlander
List is in the field. He was recently on the TD pod. Less than driver course. If he doesn't lose more than a stroke or two on the greens, he'll be there on Sunday. Todd was a name that hasn't popped for me in a long time but this type of field usually brings that out for some guys. Short course. Need a good putter. Need some accuracy... Interesting. Kanaya is a Japanese player who has a lot of Tour experience. It hasn't gone particularly well for him in the US but on his side of the pond, different story. Kanaya has seven T16s or better in his last seven starts with three top 5s. He also placed well in the BMW Open and the Irish Open on the Euro Tour.
The Norlander fade is more based off of ownership right now. He is projected between 15-20% but on FNGC's lineup generator he is over 30%. He's got the ball striking game but his putting and ability to rack up birdies is suspect.
- DB: Play - Brandon Hagy, Wyndham Clark, Shaun Norris
- Pat: Play - Andrew Putnam, Sam Ryder, Sung Kang
- AC: Play - Ryosuke Kinoshita, Rikuya Hoshina, Shaun Norris
A bit of local talent for you in this range. Kinoshita has finished T10 in five of his last six starts including last week's Japan Open Golf Championship. He has also has three PGA starts including The Open and WGC St. Jude with respectable results. Kinoshita is #72 in official world golf rankings (OWGR). Hoshina is very similar to the other fellow countrymen I have mentioned so far. Three T10s in his last five starts. He also finished T38 at the Olympic games and even more impressive, T26 at the US Open. Hoshina (105th) could crack the OWGR top 100 for the first time ever with a solid result this week. Shaun Norris just missed out on the auto-entry into this field via a top finish in the Bridgestone Open. He finished fifth but needed a top three. Well he followed that up with a win at the Japan Open last week and has climbed to #86 in the world.
There ya go. No cut week. Ownership, ownership, ownership. Don't blow the roll. Max out your contests. You don't want to go up against a sharp player using half of the field in their player pool.
THE INS & OUTS
*Field is set at 78 with no cut after 36 holes.