2021 Zozo Championship picks, field grade, odds, golf predictions, best bets in Japan

Japanese golf has been a bit of a theme so far this calendar year. Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters in April. In August, the Olympics went to Japan, where Xander Schauffele took the gold medal. Now the PGA Tour heads back for the first time in two years for the Zozo Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, the site where Tiger Woods picked up his 82nd career win in 2019.

Let’s take a closer look at this week’s contest with odds provided via Caesars Sportsbook.

Event information

Event: Zozo Championship | Dates: Oct. 21-24
Location: Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club — Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Par: 70 | Purse: $9.95 million

Three things to know

1. Big(gest) money: This tournament is the biggest money event of the fall, even though it will not have the best field. Its nearly $10 million purse is only $1.5 million shy of some of the major championship purses earlier this year, which is pretty wild when you consider the fields, stakes and time of the year. Though it’s still a very young event, it could not have gotten off to a better start. Tiger won for the 82nd time in his PGA Tour career in the first iteration of this event, and Patrick Cantlay took last year’s version over Jon Rahm to kick-start a four-win year in which he also took home the FedEx Cup.

2. X gonna give it to you? Xander Schauffele intrigues me this week. Obviously, the Olympics storyline is prominent, but last week’s CJ Cup at Summit was a reminder that Rickie Fowler, who was in the final group on Sunday, has won more recently on the PGA Tour than Schauffele. That’s a bit misleading, of course, because Schauffele had the lowest score at the 2020 Tour Championship (where Dustin Johnson won), and obviously he captured gold at the Olympics as well. Still, neither of those count as a PGA Tour victory. Since his last win at the 2019 Tournament of Champions, Schauffele is fifth in the world in strokes gained at 1.91 per round. The other 12 players in that top 13 have a victory since the Monday after Schauffele won at Kapalua, and most of them have won at least three times. It’s reductive to say that Schauffele is either a bad closer or extremely due, but not overly so. Big year forthcoming for him.

3. Catch 54: Since the 2021 PGA Championship where Phil Mickelson held on to a 54-hole lead, the only golfer to do so is Patrick Cantlay, who did it twice. There’s an asterisk there because one of those was the Tour Championship, where Cantlay technically did not have the lowest score. The point is, however, that no 54-hole lead has been safe of late on the PGA Tour. Even if you include Cantlay’s Tour Championship victory, that’s still 19 of the last 21 Tour events that have ended with a 72-hole winner that did not lead or co-lead after 54.

Grading the field

It’s good but not great, especially compared to last week when most of the best players in the world teed it up in Las Vegas at the CJ Cup at Summit. Collin Morikawa and Schauffele are the headliners here, and also the only two top-10 players in the world who will be teeing it up. Seven other golfers in the top 50 join them, though, including Hideki Matsuyama, Will Zalatoris and Tommy Fleetwood. A middling field for such a high-money event is an anomaly on the PGA Tour, and is likely due to being held halfway around the world the week after an event almost everyone played at the end of a pretty long two-year run for golf. Grade: B-

2021 Zozo Championship picks

Who will win the Zozo Championship, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard and best bets, all from the model that’s nailed seven golf majors and is up almost $10,000 since the restart.

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