I am here to talk about some bombs in Japan…write your own punchlines. It’s 2022 ZOZO week, and although the outright odds are pretty atrocious at the top, there are still plenty of viable longshots to bet in a tight 78-man field that offers little resistance after Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele at the top. Between some hidden gems on the Japan Tour and buy low candidates from the PGA Tour, these are my favorite value plays of the week for DFS and outright betting.
DFS Values & Betting Bombs
Pricing from Draft Kings
Branden Grace (+6600, $7,600)
If Xander Schauffele is the most respected golfer on Tour according to Draft Kings and bookmakers, never getting a bettable number or buy low DFS price, then Branden Grace is the least. At 66/1 (the same odds as Harry Higgs and Roger Sloan), Grace has put together a great 2021 season including a win at the Puerto Rico Open and 3 T10s over his last 7 starts between the Wyndham Championship, US Open, and, the Memorial. What I’ve liked about Grace when betting him over the last couple of months is his versatility to contend in both a birdie fest like the Puerto Rico Open or Wyndham, or a grinder event like the US Open or Memorial. Looking ahead to the ZOZO at Narashino, it sets up to be half birdie fest, half grinder event, with a bunch of short holes, a bunch of long holes, and not much in between.
The greens at Narashino are not Paspalum, but we should expect them to perform similarly and stay true to their line, given the meticulous care the greenskeepers give in Japan. While SG: P data is limited on Paspalum, a small sample size earlier this year from the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island (+4.4. SG: P) and the Puerto Rico Open where he went on to win, suggest he is very comfortable putting on smooth greens. Grace ranks 3rd in this field in Scrambling and Par 4 Scoring, is 6th SG: P, and 14th SG: APP. He’s had a couple inconsistent rounds to start the 2022 season, which is factored into his price, but his game of irons & putting fit the profile of what this course demands perfectly if he can return to form this week.
Doug Ghim (+8000, $7,000)
I’ve never bet Doug Ghim, but I do periodically check back in on him week to week to see if he’s getting progressively less atrocious with his putting. “Still sucks? Damn, maybe next week”. That’s basically been my Doug Ghim mindset for the entirety of his career. After The Shriners however, I’m comfortable promoting Ghim from “Team Never Putt” to “Team No Putt”. If you’re keeping score at home, Team Never Putt still rosters Kyle Stanley, Matthew NeSmith, and Joseph Bramlett, who are objectively bad at putting and can never be expected to luck into a positive putting week.
Ghim enters this week having gained strokes putting in 3 of his last 5 events, including 1.8 strokes gained at The Shriners in his previous start. The irons, which are normally his strong suit, had gone cold for a 2 month stretch to close out the 2021 season, however he seems to have returned to form, gaining 5 strokes on approach over his last two starts. Looking at the model this week, Ghim has a great all around profile. ranking Top 25 in SG: APP, Good Drives Gained, GIRs Gained, P5: 550-600, Par 4 Scoring, Scrambling, and Comp Course History. As long as the putter can continue to remain neutral, Ghim sets up well as a viable T20 play this week.
Rikuya Hoshino (+21000, $6,200)
As we know by now, I’m always one to chase a home bed narrative, and in a week where a majority of the field will be jet lagged traveling across the world, it’s a perfect time to roll out the home dojo narrative. With that, I will be beating the Rikuya Hoshino drum all week as a viable DFS value and T20 play, who even has some win equity at 210/1. Hoshino has 3 wins on the Japan Tour over the last 13 months, which has propelled him to 106th in the OWGR rankings. It’s easy to dismiss high finishes on a Tour with inferior competition to the PGA Tour, but 3 wins is 3 wins, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone else in this week’s field who can say the same, regardless of which Tour they plan on. That 106 ranking places Hoshino ahead of the likes of Troy Merritt, Harry Higgs, Robert Streb, CT Pan, and Brendan Steele, who are each listed this week between 45-100/1 to win.
Golf in Japan is just different, and requires some adjustment if you’re used to playing on the PGA Tour, and that’s before even factoring in the jet lag. Hoshino on the other hand, is the best player in this field who plays out of Japan. Since playing in the Olympics where he finished a decent T38, Hoshino has rattled off five T15 finishes on the Japan Tour in his next 8 starts entering this week. Unlike most of the other Japan Tour players, Hoshino also has some experience in PGA Tour events, which allows us to get a sense of how he profiles with SG data. In his two starts in the United States this year, he gained 8.2 strokes on Approach at the US Open and another 2.9 strokes on approach at the PGA Championship. To put that into perspective, he was tied with Collin Morikawa for most strokes gained on approach at the US Open and 17th in average strokes gained on approach per round at the PGA Championship before missing the cut with an ice cold putter. He’s an approach specialist who’s proven that he can win on Japanese courses. The putting is a bit of a mystery from what we’ve seen, but if he’s won several times on the Japan Tour recently, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he can read these greens at Narashino and give himself a chance to contend this week.
Shaun Norris (+10000, $6,000)
I would be remiss not to mention the lowest hanging fruit of the value plays this week in Shaun Norris. Norris was a late add to the field after Paul Casey’s withdrawal, and in a sheer display of panic, Draft Kings added him to the slate at a stone minimum $6,000. The odds have quickly adjusted, as he’s currently 100/1 to win this tournament outright, the same odds as Tom Hoge, who is priced at a more appropriate $7,000 on Draft Kings.
All the things I love about about Hoshino are equally as applicable to Norris. Norris ranks 86th OWGR and has two wins on the Japan Tour this season, including a win last week at the Japan Open Golf Championship. In his last 15 starts between the Japan, Euro, and PGA Tours, Norris has amassed 10 T20s, highlighted by a T5 in a very respectable BMW International Open field, in addition to those 2 wins in Japan. While there’s not a ton of recent data we can reference from the Japan Tour, Norris profiles overall as a steady iron players who can catch a very hot putter, which is ideal for the Narashino. The value seems to already be gone in the betting markets, but if Norris’ ownership stays under the radar in DFS, he’ll be a great salary saver option for lineups looking to cram in Morikawa and/or Xander.