The PGA TOUR heads off the mainland for the next few weeks as the TOUR will see stops in Japan (for the ZOZO this week), Bermuda, and Mexico for its next three events. 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 last year in California (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, and was his last win on the PGA TOUR prior to sustaining leg injuries in a car accident early in 2021.
The field this week is headlined by Americans Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele, who are both under +1000 in the betting odds on DraftKings Sportsbook. Schauffele won the Olympic gold medal in Japan earlier in the year so there’s definitely some strong synergy working for him this week. Not too many stars have made the long trip over but some other interesting names in this field include the likes of Will Zalatoris, Matt Wallace and last week’s third-place finisher Rickie Fowler. This field also includes a bunch of players from the Asian and Pacific Tours, so lots of digging and research for players under $7,000 will be required this week.
ACCORDIA GOLF NARASHINO CC, Chiba, Japan
Par 70, 7,000-7,100 yards
This week’s venue comes to us from Chiba, Japan and will be making its return to the PGA TOUR after hosting the event in 2019. The Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club plays as a 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 be tough targets for players on approaches. 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.
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 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.
The rest of the course features a lot of par 4s, which measure in as an eclectic group. 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 dog-legs, which makes it almost a certainty that players will need to be emphasizing accuracy a little more this week than pure power.
This venue should play similar 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). Accuracy and elite iron play then should be favored over power this week, so look for players really trending strongly in approach who you can rely on not getting too inaccurate off the tee.
2021 Outlook: The weather this week will take a turn to the cool side. Highs will top out in the low to mid-60s for most days this week with lows in the 50-55 F region expected. The course will likely play a little longer as a result, but we have a fairly short setup here regardless, so acclimatizing may be the biggest hurdle the players face. Winds in the 8-10 mph range are expected for the first couple of days but will die down as the week progresses. The biggest news here is that we don’t have much, if any, precipitation in the forecast for the week. Friday is the only day we may see a little rain (30% chance), so the course should play a little firmer than when we saw it last in 2019. Expect a little tougher scoring from 2019—when Tiger blitzed the field to 19-under.
Last 5 winners and Winning Trends
*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 in off two months of competitive rest.
- 2019 second-place finisher Hideki Matsuyama provides us with a little more info as he was busier around this time in 2019 and 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).
- We often see players maintain momentum around this time of year and in 2019, the 3rd place finishers here—Sung Jae Im and Rory McIlroy—had both collected top-5 finishes in one of their previous three starts prior to finishing in the top five at this event in 2019.
- 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).
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 comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
1. Collin Morikawa ($11,200, Recent finishes: 2nd-T26): With a field this weak, it’s probably safe to just give Morikawa this top spot. He wasn’t playing great in the early Fall, but had a strong Ryder Cup and landed a solo second place last week, gaining over +5.0 strokes ball-striking alone. It’s safe to say it looks like his A-game is back, which makes him the man to beat in this field.
2. Rickie Fowler ($9,800, Recent finishes: T3-MC): Likewise, we’ll give some respect here to Fowler, who is coming off a big week of his own. He took the third-round lead into Sunday but fell back to T3 at the CJ Cup. Fowler did so while gaining +6.8 strokes ball-striking, which is a great sign for the state of his game. If he can get the putter straightened out, more good things could be coming soon.
3. Xander Schauffele ($11,000, Recent finishes: T18-T5): Schauffele had a slow start to his event last week but finished strong. He ended up in a top-20 spot and gained over +2.9 strokes on his approaches. He also looked in fine form at the Ryder Cup and isn’t far removed from either a T5 (Tour Championship) or his gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
4. C.T. Pan ($8,800, Recent finishes: T11-T6): Pan is playing some nice golf at the moment and is definitely a player to watch this week. The winner of the 2019 RBC has gained over +3.0 strokes approach in his first two Fall events and isn’t that far removed from taking home a bronze medal at the Olympics in Japan over the summer.
5. Will Zalatoris ($10,500, Recent finishes: T14-T11): We can forgive one missed cut in his last start here on Zalatoris, who still grades out as one of the more elite players in this event. Before the MC at the Shriners, Zalatoris has put together back-to-back top-15 finishes in the Fall where he gained over +4.0 strokes on his ball-striking in consecutive weeks. He’s still one of the best in terms of recent strokes gained total metrics in this field.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Can’t fade Collin
With Collin Morikawa ($11,200) coming off a clear rebound week, it’s really hard to imagine he doesn’t at least sniff the top of this leaderboard at some point on Sunday. Morikawa gained over +5.0 strokes ball-striking last week and sits at just +750 in the outright odds on DraftKings Sportsbook. He’s too cheap at just $11.2K. Down a little further, I also like the looks of C.T. Pan ($8,800 – see below), but also don’t hate the idea of paying up for Joaquin Niemann ($9,900) either, who should really benefit from the tighter setup. His putter went cold last week but this setup should favor him given how consistent he is off the tee. Other potential names to consider for this format include the likes of Chris Kirk ($8,100) and Andrew Putnam ($6,700).
Tournaments: Get down with Grillo
Emiliano Grillo ($9,100) is well-known for his ball-striking prowess and his game looks to be near an uptick as we enter this week. The Argentine has gained over +2.0 on approach in two of his last three starts, including last week where he was +5.4 strokes Tee to Green against the field, and finished a solid T18. Grillo’s approach game could dominate on a shorter, tight setup like Accordia and his upside in this field looks solid enough to chase here. Luke List ($7,900) is another player who can get super hot with his irons (and also can’t putt) that is worth looking at here. He’s fifth in SG: TTG stats over the last 50 rounds and did play well two weeks ago at the Sanderson Farms. Other potential GPP targets include the likes of Harry Higgs ($7,500 – see below), Doc Redman ($6,800) and Matthew NeSmith ($6,500).
MY PICK: C.T. Pan ($8,800)
Pan is a streaky player but not someone we should discount simply because he misses more cuts than typical elite players do. The Taiwanese pro has picked up a win on the PGA TOUR (2019 RBC Heritage) where he bested some elite names like Patrick Cantlay and Shane Lowry down the stretch. He also grabbed a bronze medal earlier in the summer (in Japan) by surviving a seven-man playoff. This is clearly a player who is good at rising to the moment when under pressure and he enters this year’s ZOZO Championship playing some good golf.
He finished T6 and T11 in his first two Fall seasons starts at the Fortinet and Sanderson Farms events, gaining over +3.0 strokes on his approach and over +2.0 strokes putting in both starts. Pan needs his approach game to be elite to contend, which it has been of late, and he should find this week’s more accuracy-driven venue to his liking. Despite being an erratic off the tee player, he’s actually gained strokes OTT in eight of his last 11 starts, so the confidence seems to be flowing down to the other parts of his game too. Considering the field, this price on Pan looks solid and he’s a player who has now produced 97.0 or more DKFP in his last three starts. With another soft course on tap, I like targeting him here for another big birdie week, in what should be a lower scoring event.
MY SLEEPER: Harry Higgs ($7,500)
Higgs is another player who comes in with some solid recent form that we should keep an eye on this week. The American grabbed a T9 placing last week at the CJ Cup, which followed a T27 effort at the Shriners. Higgs’ bump last week came from an approach game that finally looked like it turned the corner for the better. He gained +4.0 on approach alone at the Summit Club, which was his best week in that metric since last March at the Honda Classic.
The better news on Higgs though is that he’s still been grinding made cuts, despite the poor approach game. He’s been riding a sharp around the green game and hot putter, which gained him +6.0 strokes against the field last week. This course certainly demands accuracy off the tee, but what you do on approach and on the greens here will define your week. Higgs is a solid player who has gained a runner-up finish (2020 Fortinet) and a Top-5 finish at a major (2021 PGA Championship), which have both come over the last 13 months. Don’t overlook him at a very palatable price here for DFS purposes, or in the outright betting market at +6500 on DraftKings Sportsbook this week.
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