Bet Min Woo Lee, Ryo Ishikawa in Japan

Preview: Zozo Championship Picks

In the previous three editions of the Zozo Championship, held at Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan, Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, and Keegan Bradley emerged as winners. This may give us an idea of what to expect this week.

Surprisingly, Woods was listed at 40/1 odds prior to the tournament, while local favorite Matsuyama was at 10/1, and Bradley at 30/1. These odds may have been longer than they should’ve been, considering the smaller field that often includes some players who aren’t world-class.

A common factor among all three winners is their proficiency from tee-to-green, as they were among the world’s best at the time of their victories. They were able to make enough birdies to finish in the 15-to-19-under range, which has proven to be enough to win on this golf course.

With this in mind, let’s dive into this week’s Zozo Championship picks. Our lineup begins with a tee-to-green sensation who is poised to take the next big step in his career.

Outright Winner (Short odds)

Min Woo Lee (+2000)

There were several players around the 20/1 mark who caught my interest, including Sungjae Im, Cam Davis, and defending champion Keegan Bradley. However, I ultimately chose Min Woo Lee based on a personal tiebreaker.

At this time of year, motivation becomes a significant factor. Although we can’t measure it with strokes gained analytics, we can gauge which players are hungrier for a victory. Lee is a young player who has come close to winning a few times and seems determined to make it happen sooner rather than later.

Last year, Lee posted four top-five finishes in six non-PGA Tour starts from October to December. He also recently won the SJM Macao Open on the Asian Tour, shooting impressive rounds of 62-65-64-63.

In his last 10 worldwide appearances, Lee has gained strokes off the tee and on the greens in nine of them. His high ceiling and potential make him an excellent pick for this tournament.

Outright Winner (Long odds)

Ryo Ishikawa (+40000)

While it would have been easier to choose a player like Tom Hoge or Cameron Champ, I couldn’t resist selecting Ryo Ishikawa at such a massive price in a 77-man field.

Ishikawa is best remembered as a can’t-miss phenom on the PGA Tour, although his name hasn’t been heard in years. Now 32, he primarily plays in Japan, where he has become a very good player without the media spotlight that once followed him.

Ishikawa won his first Japan Golf Tour event at the age of 15, turned pro at 17, and consistently achieved victories on that circuit. He also finished as runner-up in a PGA Tour event at 20 and spent subsequent years competing in the U.S. alongside a massive media contingent.

While it may be easy to assume that Ishikawa missed his mark, he was a solid PGA Tour player for several years, given his age, and has become one of the top players on the JGT in recent seasons.

For a 400/1 investment, you’ll get a player with a runner-up finish in his most recent start, top-20 results in five of his last seven tournaments, and a victory less than a year ago. Although he hasn’t faced the same level of competition as Collin Morikawa or Xander Schauffele, it’s worth taking a chance on him at this price.

Other Potential Selections

For one-and-done pools, consider the following players:

Adam Schenk (+3500)

While Schenk missed the cut last week, it was primarily due to an opening round with six bogeys that offset five birdies. His ball-striking numbers were excellent in the second round, so it’s worth giving him another shot this week, especially considering his T16 finish in last year’s Zozo Championship.

Tom Hoge (+5500)

Hoge also missed the cut last week, but he had strong ball-striking numbers in the opening round. Considering his T9 finish in last year’s Zozo Championship, it’s worth giving him another chance.

Zozo Championship Placement Bets

For top-five, top-10, and top-20 finishes, consider the following players:

Sungjae Im (+300 for Top-Five Finish)

Sungjae Im recently won a gold medal at the Asian Games and had his mandatory military service reduced. This should give him added confidence on a course where he finished T3 four years ago.

Cameron Champ (+400 for Top-10 Finish)

Cameron Champ showed promising signs last week, and his comments about being in a better headspace and enjoying the game more are encouraging. With his immense talent and ability to win tournaments, he’s a strong contender for a top-10 finish.

Keep an eye on these players as they compete in the Zozo Championship this week.


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