Ben Coley won last year’s ZOZO Championship and is following in his footsteps as the PGA Tour returns to Japan.
ZOZO Championship golf betting tips
- 4pts e.w. Hideki Matsuyama at 14/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
- 1.5 points enhanced winnings on Keegan Bradley at 33/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)
- 1.5 points earned on the win with Sebastian Munoz at odds of 45/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
- 1pt e.w. Kurt Kitayama at 66/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
Prior to the ZOZO Championship that took place the year before, there were understandable concerns that it would not be able to deliver as successfully as it had prior to the pandemic, on its first and only trip to Japan. Back then, Rory McIlroy, HIDEKI MATSUYAMA, Jason Day, and Tiger Woods got the week started with a skins game. Tiger Woods finished it off with a dazzling victory, the 82nd of his PGA Tour career to tie Sam Snead’s record. After everything was said and done, Matsuyama ended up in second place, and McIlroy came in third.
Two years later, with Woods unable to compete and McIlroy not participating in the tournament, it was up to Matsuyama and two other players with Japanese ancestry, Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa, to do their best to save the competition. Matsuyama was responsible for more than just that. Six months after making history at the Masters, he opened the tournament with a round of 64, took the lead after the second round, and eventually won by five strokes following a closing eagle to stretch his lead.
If you want to follow in Tiger Woods’ footsteps, it will be nearly impossible for you to do so, unless your name is Hideki Matsuyama, you’re the defending champion of the Masters, you’re playing golf in Japan, and you do what he did. It was a phenomenal performance, the kind of which he had not always appeared capable of despite all of his incredible talents, and it echoed those of Adam Scott when he brought his Green Jacket back home to Australia in 2013.
If you ask for a repeat, it almost feels like you’re being cheeky, and this field is slightly stronger at the front end thanks to Sungjae Im and Tom Kim. Tom Kim is arriving on the back of his second win in less than two months, and at just 20 years old, he is now firmly established as an elite player. Sungjae Im is arriving on the back of his first win in less than two months. Even though there is a small field and no cut, this is still one of the better end-of-year tournaments because of the presence of Cameron Young and Viktor Hovland, as well as the Ryder Cup teammates of Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton.
However, Matsuyama is capable, and given the manner in which he won this event last year, I believe that betting on him at odds of 12/1 or higher is a good idea. It’s important to keep in mind that he didn’t just win by a margin of five, but also that the two players who tied for second place were the only ones who came within eight points of him. Matsuyama won by a margin of more than two strokes per day, and across these two iterations of the ZOZO, only a sublime performance by Woods has been able to beat him. Matsuyama won by a margin of more than two strokes per day.
His form coming in last year was unspectacular, and this time he’s skipped the Shriners, which means he’ll be fresher than those who arrive off that plane, including Im, Kim, Si-Woo Kim, Mito Pereira, Cam Davis, Maverick McNealy, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and Tom Hoge.
I also thought he played well at the Presidents Cup, despite facing the two strongest US pairings in three of his matches and being let down by a partner on multiple occasions. His dramatic half against Sam Burns confirmed his game was in good shape – theirs was one of the best singles matches – and the fact that he was able to play in every session suggests we can rely on his health as well.