The PGA heads into the second part of its relocated “Asian” swing this week with the second annual running of the Zozo Championship. The Zozo was added to the PGA schedule last season to complement the CJ Cup and the WGC HSBC Champions event (held annually in China, but cancelled this year) already on the Fall calendar. Like last week’s event though, Covid-19 has forced this one to move from its regular location at the ACCORDIA GOLF NARASHINO CC in Chiba, Japan to the US mainland for one year.
The event will take place at Sherwood Country Club this season, a private Jack Nicklaus designed course that’s located in 1000 Oaks just outside of L.A. The venue used to host the Chevron World Challenge event prior to 2014 but hasn’t been seen in an official capacity on Tour ever since.
Like last week, this is a no-cut event and the field here remains limited with just 78-golfers teeing it up. We have several names who returned to action last week back in the field here as the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Justin Thomas will all look to improve on mediocre finishes at the CJ Cup. A few newcomers will be joining them too, with the most prolific being the defending champion of this event in Tiger Woods. Woods came off a long rest last season to win this event and it’s worth noting that Tiger has won five times on Sherwood when it hosted the small-field Chevron event, so he’s more than familiar with the venue. Rest certainly helped Tiger last year and seeing whether an extended layoff once again leads to good things for his game will be one of the major storylines of this week.
The Zozo Championship at Sherwood course details
Sherwood Country Club (1000 Oaks, California)
Par: 72, 7057 yards
- Greens: Bentgrass/Poa
- Design: Jack Nicklaus (1989; renovated 2016)
- Past Champions (*different venue)
- 2019 Tiger Woods (19-under par)
As mentioned above, this week’s venue has never been used as the host for an official PGA event–prior to this week of course–but has hosted several “off-season” events with the most prolific being the former Chevron World Challenge (now the hero Challenge). The winners at the Chevron featured a wide swatch of names with more precision players like Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Jim Furyk all picking up wins at Sherwood over their careers. Prime Tiger also dominated here though so there’s no doubt that power is still an asset when used appropriately.
From a setup perspective, Sherwood will be an interesting test for the players this week. It’s a Par 72 venue but sets up non-traditionally with five Par 5’s (instead of four) and five Par 3’s as well. The eight Par 4’s that are left also run the gamut of yardage as two measure in well under 380-yards (one is very driveable by most pros) and the rest fall somewhere between 400-460 yards. While a couple of the Par 3’s play over 200 yards, this course isn’t long at all by Tour standards, a fact which may actually play into the hands of the shorter hitters.
With only one Par 5 playing longer than 570-yards off the tee, almost every player here will have multiple eagle attempts per round IF they’re striking the ball well. Distance should play a role here but much like last week’s course, which also had short Par 5’s and a drivable Par 4, extreme distance off the tee may not be needed. Both Jason Kokrak and Xander Schauffele were outside of the top-10 in Driving Distance last week, although both averaged well over 300-yards off the tee.
In a lot of ways, Sherwood seems likely to play at least somewhat similar to last week’s venue. Expect a well-manicured course that stretches through some tree-lined portions but opens up slightly more than Shadow Creek did in others. Water doesn’t cover much of the property but does come into play on eight of the holes this week. The Bentgrass/Poa greens here should play relatively quick and possibly give an advantage to players with good West coast knowledge or pedigree. As we saw with last week’s event, mastering the greens quickly on a new course where lots of scoring is available is key as both Kokrak and Schauffele ranked inside the top-3 in SG: Putting for the week.
2020 Zozo Championship betting discussion and picks
From an odds perspective, here is where the last winner of this event generally went off, from an outright perspective, pre-event for the year of their win:
2019- Tiger Woods +3000
Woods came in here off a big two-month rest period so his win was a little out of the blue. At the same time, with a new event and venue in play, maybe shouldn’t have been shocking that we got a somewhat surprise winner given the lack of course history involved. Given that we again have a new venue in play for this event, a similar type of winner could be in store.
Finally, it’s worth noting that top-5 finishers at this event last year–like Rory Mcilroy, Hideki Matsuyama and SungJae Im–all came in with great form and were +3500 or lower in the betting odds–McIlroy was +700. Recent form has always been a big factor in many of the winners we see in the Fall swing so don’t overlook players who could be heating up this week, especially if their odds haven’t dipped much with their increasing form.
Betting favorites to win the 2020 Zozo Championship
Rahm played in his first event last week since a T23 finish at US Open and finished a respectable T17. It wasn’t a flashy week at all at the CJ Cup for the Spaniard but he only showed rust on the greens where he lost -2.6 strokes putting for the week. He was his usual dominant self off the tee, gaining an incredible +4.7 strokes alone OTT and also gained on his approaches and around the green. His price here respects his world ranking (2nd) and form but seems too short given the lack of sharpness he’s shown with his scoring clubs of late. Look for Rahm to take a step forward here though as he tries to peak for Augusta in November.
Schauffele was the bridesmaid again last week, landing his fifth-second place finish since the late summer of 2019. The American once again displayed elite sharpness around and on the greens, gaining over +6-strokes putting for his third straight event. Unfortunately for him he still hasn’t been able to convert his newfound putting prowess into a win and his betting price has now shrunk to where he’s either the second favorite or co-favorite at many sportsbooks this week. With a similar venue to last week in play here, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him finally breakthrough, although you have to figure he’s due for at least a touch of regression with the putter soon.
Thomas looked like he was close to inserting himself into contention at various points last week but was ultimately taken out by a final round 74, which included six bogies. Thomas’ approach game remains one of the best in the game and last week marked his 10th straight event where he’s gained strokes against the field in that area. He hasn’t been as dominant off the tee or with the putter as players like Schauffele or even Tyrrell Hatton though, losing strokes on the greens in two of his last three starts. As the third favorite he has appeal here at these odds, as he’s arguably been the most consistent top player of late, outside of Schauffele.
McIlroy stumbled badly last Sunday, falling from a top-10 position all the way down to a T21 finish. It was more of the same from Rory as he can’t seem to find a way to hit his irons consistently for four rounds. He was dominant as ever off the tee, gaining +6.1 OTT for the week but lost -3.4 on Approach. The answers will likely come for him at some point but for now, he should likely be avoided unless he balloons to higher numbers than this.
Hatton followed up his win over at the BMW PGA in Europe with a great showing at Shadow Creek last week, where he led the field in Strokes Approach stats and ended up with a T3 finish. Hatton’s week could have been even better if not for a disastrous Saturday 73 that saw him lose over 2-strokes putting. The Englishman’s odds got a little smaller this week but you have to love the form he’s carrying and with this week’s course again seeming like it will cater to those with solid approach games and putters, Hatton could pay off here for betters who choose to roll with him for one more week.
Woods is going off in the same kind of price range he went off in at this event last season and is also coming in off a long rest, nearly identical to the one he came off last year. Lightning couldn’t strike twice here, could it? Tiger’s game has not looked sharp at all in 2020, as he lost strokes putting in four of his five starts, post-Covid stoppage, and could only muster a T37 at the PGA Championship as his best finish last summer. Even at these bigger odds, it’s best just to watch this week to see if we see any signs of life from the GOATs game.
Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)
For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more).
Cantlay’s recent form doesn’t look overly impressive–he finished a sub-par T38 last week–but he is starting to string together some consistency in his play. The two-time winner on Tour came out strong at the Shriners a couple weeks ago, landing a T8 there while opening the event with a 63. While he faded on Sunday, the fact he was able to get himself into contention without having his best ball-striking week was a good sign his scoring clubs are sharp. Last week he continued his good play around the greens–gaining +3.2 strokes ATG–but slid back a touch with his putter.
The variance with the putter can be overlooked though, especially since he showcased good work in other areas, mainly Off the Tee where he had his best week driving the ball since the BMW Championship. Cantlay’s consistency OTT waned a little over the summer so the fact he’s gotten more dominant with that club of late is a good sign for his prospects going forward. The American was going off around +1600 to +1800 at many events when he first returned to the Tour after the Covid stoppage so the fact we’re getting him in a limited field here at nearly double those prices looks good from a long-term perspective, especially when you consider his play has been pretty consistent overall.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that one of Cantlay’s other wins on Tour did come at the Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village, a place where former Sherwood winners like Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk have also racked up wins. While he’s not trending as well as some of his other peers, this does feel like a spot where he can excel and a good time to look for a possible level up in his play. The odds and setup all feel right to take a shot on win number three coming this week for the 28-year-old.
It was just a month ago that Harris English was posting his first-ever top-5 finish in a major championship when he landed a T4 at the US Open at Winged Foot. The American took a small break but returned to action two weeks ago at the Shriners, where he promptly missed the cut. He started uninspiringly last week with a 75 too, but pulled himself off the mat nicely, shooting 13-under in his final three rounds at Shadow Creek.
English gained strokes Off the Tee and on Approach in each of his final three rounds at Shadow, while also showcasing the type of upside on the greens we’ve been used to from him since the beginning of the summer. He ranks out great in both long term and short term form too, coming in at 13th in SG:TTG stats over the last 50-rounds and 8th in Birdie or Better % over the last 24-rounds.
Over his career, English has also been a great West coast player, posting solid finishes at venues like Riviera and Torrey Pines. The Poa/Bentgrass combo greens at Sherwood should be much to his liking and, with a shorter course that should require players to be extremely opportunistic on the greens–in terms of converting their birdie chances–I like English at this price to finally grab a win and really put a bow on what has been a fantastic 2020 season.
It may shock some people, but from a pure tee to green perspective, Bubba Waston rates out as one of the best players in this field. Over the last 24-rounds he now ranks 2nd in SG: Tee to Green and Off the Tee stats (behind just Jon Rahm). Bubba has now gained over 10+ strokes Tee to Green in his two starts and has also looked much more comfortable around the greens, where he’s not lost strokes to the field in four straight starts.
As you can probably only guess, the issue for him has been on the greens where he’s simply not converting enough opportunities. Watson’s putting issues go back a while, as he’s now lost strokes on the greens in four of five starts and has been negative in this stat for most of the year. A trip out West could be a cure for what ails him though and it’s worth noting that some of Bubba’s finest work with the putter has come on Riviera’s Poa/Bentgrass greens, a course not far from this week’s venue.
The venue here should also work in his favour as Sherwood features five Par 5’s, a setup that will surely play into his hands as he ranks 4th in Par 5 efficiency over the last 24-rounds. We saw Jason Kokrak, another historically bad putter, elevate his game on the greens for one week and it would seem that with Bubba oozing so much confidence everywhere else that his time for a similar outcome is soon. I like going back to him for one more week to see if he can elevate the one piece of his game that’s holding him back here.
Casey’s betting price this week has ballooned to a spot we rarely see him at after two bad starts in a row. The Englishman missed the cut at the Shriners and then promptly mailed in a T69 finish last week (the field was only 78) that included three rounds of 75 or worse. The lack of execution is concerning but a Saturday 67, where he gained over +2.6 strokes on approach, is a good sign his game likely isn’t that far off.
It’s also worth reminding readers that this is a player who finished T2 at the PGA Championship just a couple of months ago off the back of three straight poor finishes (two MC’s and a T69) and also won the Valspar back in 2019 off a poor missed cut at the PLAYERS. Casey actually tied last week’s winner Jason Kokrak at the US Open (both were T17) and it’s again worth noting that Kokrak also missed the cut at the Shriners before winning last week.
Casey has good California form with 2nd place finishes at both Riviera and Pebble Beach and could easily find Sherwood more to his liking than Shadow Creek. The price here alone warrants taking a shot with him this week as we’re getting great placing odds for each-way bets too.
- Horschel comes in having lost strokes around the green and on approach now in three straight starts. He also hasn’t broken 70 now in any of his last eight rounds on Tour
- Smith’s short game is really working, as the Aussie has now gained +2 strokes or more ATG in two straight starts. He’s also gained on Approach in 7-straight starts and shot 24-under combined the last two events
- Unless he takes a dramatic turn upwards in ball-striking, Horschel would likely need a monster week on the greens to prevail here
- Neither player had a great week at the CJ Cup, but Im’s problems seem much more fixable after he shot a final-round 67
- Im has gained strokes ball striking (both on APP and OTT) in four straight starts now and only lost strokes around the green last week
- Scheffler is coming off three bad starts in a row and has seen his ball-striking numbers dip dramatically over that period
- A solid week on the greens by Im at Sherwood and he could win this one rather easily, but even if he just improves slightly on last week’s T45 he may prevail given Scheffler’s struggles