Late night golf is back! It’s Wednesday and we are only hours away from tee off at the 2022 ZOZO Championship, which means I’ll be up (hopefully) sweating FRLs until 2am. I’ll actually be at the Knicks home opener tonight, so really looking forward to the rare golf night cap when I get back. After all the upfront research and #content consumed across the industry, I’ve landed on a core of players who have average to above average distance off the tee, great irons, and a good all around short game. For the first time in the last few months, I really think SG: ARG/Scrambling is a must for this tournament, with the extra 5th Par 3, 5 long Par 4s, and overall tight fairways & smaller greens. Here’s a look back at where I landed with my final card.
- Hideki Matsuyama +1600
- Keegan Bradley +4000
- Branden Grace +6600
- CT Pan +6600
- Rikuya Hoshino +26000
Maybe it’s because I’m biased and want Hideki to win to propel my season long fantasy team to first place on the heels of Rory’s victory last week, but I have a great feeling about Hideki this week. At the inaugural ZOZO Championship in 2019, there was immense pressure on him to represent his country in the PGA Tour’s first ever trip to Japan. At the Olympics earlier this year, there was even more pressure on him to win a medal on his country’s home soil with great expectations as the standing Masters champion. He finished 2nd and T4 in those two events, so this week with considerably less pressure, I expect Hideki to continue to play well at home and ride the positive momentum around him.
*EDIT: Hideki commented on the current state of his game being “Less than 1/10” in the press earlier today, so he has been updated to a stone cold lock to win the ZOZO Championship now*
Keegan Bradley was #1 in my model this week. That’s not an auto-bet for me, but it’s a fast track to a short list when he leads a model that includes 10% weight on putting anyway. I was 1v1 between Keegan and Grillo for the last spot on my card, and ultimately sided with Keegan due to the superior ARG game, recent putting upside, and strong results at the last ZOZO Championship in Japan, as well as other comp Asian events.
I never feel comfortable betting CT Pan, but I feel a little less dirty looking around and seeing him on many other cards this week. The Bronze at Kasumigaseki was encouraging, as is his last win which came at Harbour Town, one of the better PGA Tour comps for Narashino. The Panimal’s irons have been firing to kick off the 2022 season, resulting in a T6 and T11 in his first to starts. Branden Grace & Rikuya Hoshino are two players I wrote highly of in bombs & values.
First Round Leader (0.5u)
- Doug Ghim +6000
- Troy Merritt +6000
- Sebastian Munoz +6000
These are the shortest FRL odds we’ve seen on Sebastian Munoz for about the last 6 months for really no reason, if that’s any indication of how committed I am to betting him every single Thursday. I like Ghim and Merritt a lot as DFS plays this week with birdie making upside for DK Scoring. Merritt was in the inaugural 2019 ZOZO field so has some familiarity around the place with the irons starting to percolate. Ghim on the other hand has the putter percolating (by his standards) which is too good of an opportunity to pass up, even if for just one round.
Finishing Positions (1.5u)
- Hideki Matsuyama T10 +170
- Rikuya Hoshino T30 +260
I’m trying to be smarter about my placement bet strategy. These used to just be 5/1+ longshot flyers I liked to through on some value guys at the bottom of the board who I couldn’t get exposure to otherwise, or didn’t have the win equity despite being a good fit for the course. I think sweating Lucas Glover T20 +500 last week really changed my perspective on things. Glover was better than I thought he would be, he was on the T20 cusp throughout the weekend as a minimum priced DFS player and bomb on the odds board, but a haphazard Sunday back nine dropped him to a T44 finish. So while I used to treat finishing position bets as upside plays on players that could place high, I’m shifting the focus to players who should finish up top the leaderboard, but at at shorter odds.
Hideki Matsuyama to me feels as safe as a Top 10 bet can really feel. This field sucks, in my opinion there is Tier 1a which includes Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele, and there is Tier 1b which is just Hideki Matsuyama. After that, Zalatoris, Fleetwood, Niemann, Fowler, mix and match whatever power ranking order you want, but they’re all on a lower tier. With that said, I really don’t think Hideki needs his best stuff to finish Top 10. He’s played 3 events in Japan over the last 3 years: a T4 at the 2021 Olympics, a Runner Up at the 2020 ZOZO Championship, and a T8 at the 2019 Japan Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix. I don’t expect that trend to stop now given his current form. With Hoshino, I’m drawn to a player who has 3 wins in Japan over the last 13 months and has held his own on his sparse PGA Tour opportunities. Top 30 versus this 78-man field is not asking a lot for a player with those accolades, so I’m drawn to the +260 value.
- Hideki Matsuyama ($10,300)
- Doug Ghim ($7,000)
- Shaun Norris ($6,000)
I think you have to play Shaun Norris in DFS this week, at least in small field cash games where ownership is less of a concern. It’s a gross misprice on a player who is coming off of a win in Japan last week, is Top 90 OWGR, is a great profile fit (irons & putting), and is as short as 75/1 to win on some books. Doug Ghim with newfound putting ability is really intriguing to me at $7,000, and with so many viable options around him in price, I don’t think his ownership will be out of control. My core always includes the player I’m most confident will win, and to me, it’s not Xander or Collin, it’s Hideki.