The PGA TOUR heads off the mainland for three straight weeks as the PGA TOUR will host events in Japan (for the ZOZO this week), Bermuda, and Mexico over the next month. The only non-cut event of those three is this week in Japan, where a field of 78 golfers will tee things up for four rounds. This event was held in California in 2020 (where it was won by Patrick Cantlay, who is not in the field this week), but its initial running was won in Japan by Tiger Woods in 2019. In 2021, the event returned to Chiba, Japan and was won by national hero Hideki Matsuyama, who also finished runner-up to Woods in 2019.
The field this week is headlined by Americans Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele, who is the event favorite at +700 on the DraftKings Sportsbook. Schauffele won the Olympic gold medal in Japan in 2021 and loves these no-cut events. The event has an $8.5 million prize purse and features 16 of the world’s top 50 golfers. While there are numerous sponsor exemptions and players from the Asian Tour in the field, there’s also a much deeper top end of talent available for fantasy purposes than we have seen in recent weeks.
ACCORDIA GOLF NARASHINO CC, Chiba, Japan
Par 70, 7,079 yards
This week’s venue comes to us from Chiba, Japan. The Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club plays as a shorter par 70 but features some quirky layout designs that will make it a unique test for players. The course features smaller-than-average bentgrass greens that will likely make for tough targets. Narashino is also unique in that it features two greens per hole (one for winter and one for summer) and players will get free drops if they, for some reason, hit the wrong green this week. Overall, green in regulation percentages have trended about 2-3% below the PGA TOUR average at this venue and should put an emphasis on iron play and short game this week.
Layout-wise, Accordia is also unique from most PGA TOUR par 70s in that it features five par 3s, two of which feature water. These par 3s should act as solid risk-reward holes for the players as poor shots could lead to double-or-worse (especially on the holes with water), while good shots can still be rewarded with birdies. All of the par 3s come in at under 200 yards, with three of them measuring between 175-200 yards in length. There are three par 5’s on the course as well but the par 5 14th hole is a long, winding 600+ behemoth that averaged 4.94 shots since inception — making it far more difficult than the other two par 5s.
Five of the par 4s measure in at 450 yards or greater. However, there are also several par 4s that play well under 400 yards in length and will require only iron shots off the tee. The venue is heavily tree-lined and features several doglegs, which makes it almost a certainty that players will need to emphasize accuracy a little more this week. Finding fairways at Accordia has also been tough as driving accuracy numbers have trended 8-10% lower than the PGA TOUR average over the three seasons it has hosted this event.
This venue should play similarly to US venues such as Colonial or Hilton Head, where small greens, doglegs, and accuracy all take precedence over pure length. In 2019, Tiger Woods won here by being one of the leaders in fairways gained while also shooting the lights out with his irons (on what was a very wet course). Supreme ball-strikers Keegan Bradley and Hideki Matsuyama won with similar formulas. Accuracy and elite iron play should be favored over power this week, so look for players really trending strongly in approach who you can rely on for being accurate off the tee.
2023 Outlook: The weather this week could be a little nuts the first couple of days. Winds on day one may reach 20+ mph in gusts by the afternoon and pick up from there on Friday. As of now, day two has wind speeds that could reach gust levels of 30mph or greater. That would make golfing epically hard and likely cause scoring to plummet. The weekend does look better, although Saturday will still have wind speeds above 10mph before dying down more on Sunday. This should favor elite ball-strikers, although players with good around the green games will also benefit. Expect a tough week, with the winner potentially coming in at single digits under par.
Last 5 winners and Winning Trends
2022—Keegan Bradley -15 (over Andrew Putnam and Rickie Fowler -14)
2021—Hideki Matsuyama -15 (over Brendan Steele -10)
*2020—Patrick Cantlay -23 (over Justin Thomas -22)
2019—Tiger Woods -19 (over Hideki Matsuyama -16)
*Played at Sherwood CC (not this week’s venue)
- Tiger was playing his first fall event of the year when he won this event in 2019 and was coming off of two months of competitive rest.
- The 2019 second-place finisher, Hideki Matsuyama, provides us with a little more info. He was busier around this time in 2019. His second-place finish to Tiger was preceded by a T3 finish at the CJ Cup and a T16 at the Shriners, so he had some momentum.
- In 2021, Matsuyama had also already posted a strong finish prior to his win at this event, grabbing a share of fifth at the Fortinet in 2021 just a couple of weeks prior to playing in Japan.
- Last year, both Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley had posted top-five finishes in the Fall series (Fowler at Fortinet and Bradley two weeks prior at the Sanderson Farms). Clearly, some fall golf (and good fall form) has not hurt the competitors here.
- As far as performance goes, we don’t have strokes gained metrics but Woods was top eight in fairways gained and GIR%. He was smart enough just to hit fairways at this shorter course and then had elite iron play and a putter that got red-hot (led the field in PUTTS PER GIR).
- From a putting perspective, this course does tend to yield fewer three-putts than an average venue, so average putters could find a bump this week. With bentgrass greens in play, looking at splits on those types of surfaces is also a good idea.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
1. Eric Cole ($8,900, Recent finishes: T3-T35-4th): Cole had a great finish last week, shooting 9-under on Sunday to vault into the top five. He looks extremely close to grabbing his first win soon.
2. Cameron Davis ($9,500, Recent finishes: T7-3rd): Davis has had a couple of nice starts in a row, landing a 3rd at the Fortinet and a T7 last week. He was 29th at this event last year.
3. Beau Hossler ($8,500, Recent finishes: T7-T28): Hossler has played good golf since the start of the fall and grinded his way up the leaderboard on Sunday last week to a top 10 result. He finished T16 at this event last year.
4. Adam Svennson ($8,200, Recent finishes: T18-T16): Svennson has shown good form of late. He’s gained multiple strokes on approach in five of six starts now and has been top 20 in three straight events.
5. Cameron Champ ($7,100, Recent finishes: T4-T12): Champ’s resurgence has been nice to see. The three-time TOUR winner has been top 20 in his last two starts and has now gained on approach in seven straight events.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Morikawa’s ball striking should shine through
We haven’t seen Morikawa ($10,800) since the Ryder Cup obviously but this is the kind of course where we should expect him to excel. A former playoff loser at Colonial, his iron game is superb (first in strokes gained approach last 50 rounds) and it was only five events ago he lost in a playoff at the Rocket Mortgage. Below Morikawa, you also have to love this stretch from Adam Svensson ($8,200), who himself is an elite ball striker who should benefit from the setup. I mentioned Svennson in the form section above and both he and Alex Noren ($8,100 — see below) set up as nice lower 8k values. Other potential targets include Tom Hoge ($7,800) and Joel Dahmen ($7,200).
Tournaments: Min Woo Lee, wildcard worth taking on
Min Woo Lee has yet to play in a fall series event but he did play in the BMW PGA Championship a few weeks ago and played well — finishing (T14). Last week, he played in a smaller Asian Tour event and grabbed a win in Macau. While he beat a field of mostly unknowns, it’s still a great sign his game is in shape for the fall. Further down, the play from Mark Hubbard ($7,600) has again been phenomenal this fall as he comes in ranked 2nd in approach stats in this field and has already landed a T6 and T17 this season. The fact he missed the cut last week makes him a good buy-low candidate on this technical setup that he’s played twice prior. Other names to consider for GPPs include Thomas Detry ($7,500), Michael Kim ($7,500), Brandon Wu ($6,900 — see below) and Aaron Baddeley ($6,500)
MY PICK: Alex Noren ($8,100)
Noren is the kind of veteran we have seen have success at Narishino already. Early 40-year-old Tigers Woods (2019), late 30’s Keegan Bradley (2022), and 10+ year veteran Hideki Matsuyama (2021) have already proven that this is a course where experience and patience can pay off. Maybe that’s because Narishino really is more about placement and setting yourself up for good approach shots than pure power off the tee.
Regardless, 41-year-old Noren sets up well from both angles. He’s played all over the world at this point (wins in Switzerland, Scotland, and South Africa) and comes in off a really nice start last week at the Shriners (T3), where he gained 8.8 strokes ball-striking. The recent form is critical as the wind expects to put tons of pressure on approach games. Looking to Noren as a core play for DFS makes plenty of sense at 8.1k and he has appealing outright odds at +5000 on the DraftKings Sportsbooks as well.
MY SLEEPER: Brandon Wu ($6,900)
As we leave the United States, it is worthwhile to remember which players have tended to thrive away from the mainland USA. Thus far, Wu has been a hit-or-miss player who does miss his fair share of cuts (5 MCs in the last 11 starts) but also finishes inside the top 10 at a high rate as well (3 top-10’s and 2 top-5’s in 2023). Of those 2023 top 10 finishes, two came outside of the USA (Canada and Mexico) and, for his career, Wu has seen six of his eight career PGA top-10’s come in events that take place outside of the USA.
Wu didn’t play last week but it was good to see him get a start at the Sanderson, where he started well but faded on the weekend. Overall, though, he’s gained on approach in four straight starts and is top 25 in this field in strokes gained ball-striking and tee-to-green stats over the last 50 rounds. If the weather does get wild, Wu is a savvy enough putter to potentially hang around and make some noise this week. Considering his price tag, he makes for an interesting upside option for DFS in larger GPPs and a potential top-10 target this week on the DraftKings Sportsbooks.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.