Editor’e note: Adam Scott has withdrawn from the ZOZO Championship after testing positive for COVID-19.
Like last week, we’ll again have a limited field for this event, with only 78 golfers teeing it up. The big news of course will be the return of Tiger Woods ($9,000). Woods won the inaugural running of this tournament last season, beating the field in a rain-soaked event with a dominant three-stroke win. He’s also very familiar with this week’s course, having won his yearly Challenge event when it was held at Sherwood five previous times.
Joining Tiger this week in his return to action will be
Adam Scott ($8,200), who is playing competitively for the first time since the US Open in September, and Patrick Reed ($9,600). Tony Finau ($9,500) may also be eligible to return here after contracting the COVID-19 virus two weeks ago, he’ll obviously need to test negative at least once more before returning. Dustin Johnson (COVID) is still out for at least one more week. This event also features quite a few sponsors invites from the Japanese Tour, so names like Ryo Ishikawa ($6,000), Jazz Janewattananond ($6,200) and Shugo Imahira ($6,200) are also in the field.
Sherwood Country Club—Lake Sherwood, California
Par 72, 7100 yards (approx); Greens: Bentgrass/Poa
Like The CJ Cup last week, the ZOZO Championship is an event that is taking a one-year sabbatical from its typical location over in Japan due to the COVID-19 situation. This year its being moved to Sherwood Country Club over in Thousand Oaks, CA, a private club just outside of L.A. The course is a Jack Nicklaus design, of which there are several on the PGA Tour, with Muirfield Village and PGA National likely being the most prominent.
Sherwood has been seen before on the PGA Tour, but mostly in non-official events as it has hosted popular offseason stops like the Shark Shootout and Chevron World Challenge (now the Hero Challenge) — with it last being used as the host for that event in 2013. Scoring for the Chevron Challenge was solid, but not out of control, as the last two winners reached 13-under and 17-under-par, respectively. The layout at Sherwood is a unique one and there’s reason to think it will lead to plenty of birdies this week. The par 72 venue actually contains five par 5s and five par 3s — one more of each than a traditional par 72 — and only eight par 4s. None of the par 5s actually measures in longer than 580 yards either, with three coming in well under 550. Longer hitters could easily have a field day, as many could see multiple eagle attempts per round.
The course itself is set on the hillside of Thousand Oaks and runs through/along some residential habitats, along with plenty of tree-lined portions. The course does seem to have plenty of elevation changes, too, and that, along with faster greens, will likely help keep scoring down, at least a little. From a style standpoint, it does look at least slightly similar in many respects to another Los Angeles-based course, in Riviera, although its not expected to play quite as tough.
It’s worth noting that plenty of shorter hitters like Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson have prevailed here at the Chevron exhibition event, but distance has increased plenty since those days. Like last week, where a couple of big hitters off the tee in Jason Kokrak and Xander Schauffele finished in 1st and 2nd, respectively, I’d expect a good-to- great driver of the golf ball who has an exceptional week with the putter to prevail here.
2020 Outlook: We are up in the hills of L.A. this week, so temperatures will get a little cooler as we head into fall. Highs are expected to top off around the low-70 to high-60 range this week with morning lows in low 50s. It could mean slightly less distance off the tee for everyone, which may give an advantage to the bigger hitters. Still, the weather looks mostly tame for the week with slightly cloudy skies the only real downside here. Winds don’t look overly bothersome either, with Sunday afternoon the only day where gusts might get slightly over 10 mph. The limited field here means tight tee times, but early weekend players could be great showdown targets if the wind does pick up in the PM on certain days.
Past Winners and Trends
**The previous only previous running of this event was held at Narashino CC, in Chiba, Japan in 2019
2019—Tiger Woods -19 (over Hideki Matsuyama -16)
- Tiger was playing his first fall event of the year last season when he won this event, coming in off two months of competitive rest
- He ended his previous season landing a T37 at the BMW Championship and had a missed cut at the last major of the year
- Second-place finisher Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300) provides us with a little more info as he was busier around this time last year and his second-place finish to Tiger was preceded by a T3 finish at the CJ Cup and a T16 at the Shriners
- We often see players maintain momentum around this time of year and last year’s third place finishers here, SungJae Im ($8,000) and Rory McIlroy ($10,400), had both collected top-five finishes — in one of their prior three starts — prior to finishing in the top five at this event last season
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
Daniel Berger +3000 and $8,900
· Tiger Woods +3300 and $9,000
· Viktor Hovland +4000 and $9,200
· Matthew Wolff +3300 and $9,100
Rickie Fowler +5500 and $7,700
· Abraham Ancer +5500 and $7,800
· SungJae Im +5500 and $8,000
· Russell Henley +5500 and $8,100
1. Xander Schauffele ($11,200, Recent finishes: 2nd-T5): Schauffele had yet another terrific week at The CJ Cup, finishing solo second to first-time winner Jason Kokrak. Schauffele was fourth in SG: Tee to Green stats last week and third in SG: Putting. He still lacks a win in 2020, but his level of play hasn’t dipped at all, despite the frustration that must be building over the lack of a trophy to show for his efforts.
2. Tyrrell Hatton ($10,000, Recent finishes: T3-win): Hatton won the prestigious BMW PGA Championship event over in Europe two weeks and promptly got himself in contention last week, too, landing a T3 finish. While he stumbled a bit on the weekend, Hatton still ended the week first in SG: Approach stats and second in SG: Tee to Green stats. He’s in great form right now and will go looking for his third win of 2020 this week.
3. Joaquin Niemann ($8,400, Recent finishes: 6th-T13): Niemann closed strong at The CJ Cup, landing a final round 66 to move himself into a solo sixth place finish on the week. The Chilean hasn’t finished worse than T23 in three starts on the new 2020-21 season now. He wasn’t sharp around the greens but was sixth in SG: TTG stats at Shadow Creek.
4. Webb Simpson ($9,700, Recent finishes: T13-T8): Simpson comes in off a week of rest. He did put in a T13 at the Shriners two weeks ago and also finished T8 at the US Open to open up his 2020-21 season. His approach game wasn’t as sharp as usual in Vegas, but he made up for it with great around the green play.
5. Russell Henley ($8,100, Recent finishes: T3-T27): Henley is coming off a big week at Shadow Creek in which he landed himself a T3 finish. The three-time PGA Tour winner will likely be disappointed with the result given he took a three-shot lead into Sunday but was caught by a hard charging Jason Kokrak ($8,600), who sank everything on the greens in his last three rounds. Henley’s playing great golf right now and hasn’t finished worse than T27 in his last five starts.
Cash Games: With many of the top players not quite playing up to their full potential right now, a move to a more balanced approach does seem like a decent idea for cash game formats this week. Viktor Hovland ($9,200) is a player who has shown far more consistency in his ball-striking over his last three starts and shot 11-under par in his last three rounds last week. In much the same vein, both Bubba Watson ($8,700) and Harris English ($8,800) finished last week strong too and should be coming in here looking to take advantage of a shorter course and a field in which not all of the top players are necessarily 100%. Other potential targets for this format include the likes of Joaquin Niemann ($8,400), Sebastian Munoz ($7,200) and Cameron Champ ($6,800).
Tournaments: With his price rising again after a strong outing Tyrrell Hatton ($10,000) isn’t likely to have his ownership get out of control on DraftKings this week. The Englishman led the field SG: Approach stats at Shadow Creek and was just one poor round away from competing for the win. There are plenty of quality names with cheap salaries here though and the likes of Jordan Spieth ($6,900) and Paul Casey ($7,500) are two names to potentially buy low on this week. Spieth was 14th in birdies made at Shadow Creek and did finish with his best round of the week last Sunday. Other potential GPP targets here include Jason Day ($7,600) and Byeong Hun An ($6,700).
My Pick: Harris English ($8,800)
English missed the cut at the Shriners two weeks ago, in his first non-major start of 2020, but bounced back nicely last week, landing a T10 at Shadow Creek. The American rebounded from a poor start on Monday to go 13-under-par in his last three rounds and should bring some momentum into this week’s event. Overall, English’s last three rounds at Shadow Creek saw him gain strokes in every area (except around the greens) and that kind of all-around game should prove valuable at a course like Sherwood which has a big variety of holes in its setup. He ranks well in both long-term and short-term form, coming in at eighth in Birdie or Better % over the last 24 rounds in this field and 13th in SG:TTG stats over the last 50-rounds.
English has played well on the west coast throughout most of his career, too, landing big finishes at events like the Farmers which feature similar bentgrass/poa blends on the greens to the ones we’ll see this week. He’s been a player on the cusp of breaking through for a win for over a year now and with a smaller field, a favorable venue, and several of the top players not quite at their sharpest, this feels like a great time for him to pounce and grab that elusive W.
MY SLEEPER: Paul Casey ($7,500)
With the fall season in full swing and some limited field events in play, we’re seeing a lot of the top players not necessarily at their very best. Casey was a great example of that last week as the Englishman absolutely mailed in a T69 finish, in a field in which just 77 golfers finished the week. It’s two bad performances in a row now for Casey, which may be a bit concerning, but it’s also created a nice buy-low opportunity. Casey is at the lowest price point we’ve seen him at on DraftKings since the PGA Championship a few months ago, in which he snapped out of another lull to finish T2 for the week.
From a long-term form perspective, this is player has not missed three cuts in a row on the PGA Tour since 2012 so it would almost be shocking to see him throw in a third terrible week in a row. He’s played well in California and around the L.A. area over his career, finishing second at both Pebble Beach and Riviera, so the change in venue may be somewhat therapeutic too. It’s worth noting that last week’s winner, Jason Kokrak ($8,600) tied with Casey (T17) at the US Open and also missed the cut at the Shriners, so perhaps the two-time Valspar champ takes some motivation from Kokrak’s success. Either way, Casey looks like an astounding value for DraftKings purposes here at just 7.5k in an event which feels relatively wide open at the moment.
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