ZOZO Championship Betting Tips
Robert Cobley is a maths graduate with years of experience in the sports betting industry. He has now teamed up with Bet UK to bring his golf betting tips to our readers.
Narashino Country Club - Chiba, Japan - Par 70, 7,041 Yards
Japan's fantastic year of sport sees another feather adorn its cap this week as the best golfers from the USA and around the World head to the city of Katori an hour's drive east of Tokyo for the inaugural staging of the Zozo Championship at the Narashino Country Club. With 36 holes on site, and designed back in 1976, Narashino is a famously elite venue in Japan, and this week's course is made up of a composite 18 holes from the two course. One of the significant and very unusual quirks to Narashino is that each hole has two greens that will be in play on rotation throughout the week. Should any of the field find themselves on the wrong green, they will get a free drop. Fortunately the greens aren't too close together and that outcome is unlikely!
Typically tight, undulating, and heavily tree lined, Narashino, though a new venue for the field doesn't really hold too many surprises, and offers a similar test to that faced by the players last week at Nine Bridges in Korea. There is nothing unremarkable about the fairways which are average width and the trees line tightly to the edge of them. There are six holes that dogleg; both left to right and right to left. The rough is lush as you would expect in Asia at this time of the year following heavy seasonal rains in the region. Water is in play on four of the holes, and it will be key for the players to be approaching the greens from the right spots in the fairways. The greens are small bentgrass putting surfaces which can become bobbly and they are heavily protected by strong bunkering which will make accurate iron play all the more important.
There are five par 3s and three par 5s this week. All the par 4s are all either very long or very short. There are no par 4s between 425-485 yards which is highly unusual. The successful players this week will need to be very good tee to green, or to have an exceptional week scrambling. I'll be looking for the former as we try to net a second consecutive winner on the Asian leg of the PGA Tour.
The Market Leaders
Following his victory in Korea last week, American Justin Thomas (7/1) understandably comes into this week as the market favourite. These types of courses that require straight driving and precision iron play are right in Thomas' wheelhouse, and he showed last week just what a formidable opponent he is when his game is firing at anything over 75%. In that respect, and in another limited field of just 78 players, it is perhaps surprising that Thomas' price hasn't shortened from last week's SP. The overall field is slightly stronger, although lacks Brooks Koepka who tanked last week as we thought he might. He is replaced by Tiger Woods fresh from his made for tv skins game against Day, Mcilroy and Matsuyama on Monday. Thomas has to have market support, and I cannot put anyone off him at 7s, but I will be looking elsewhere this week in the anticipation that back to back wins are difficult in the best of circumstances, and there are a lot of in form players that can lay claim to the title this week.
One of those players is World number 5 Rory McIlroy (15/2) fresh from his public dressing down from Koepka who suggested there was no rivalry between the two given that Rory has not won a major in over 5 years. That is of course correct, and Rory would be the first to acknowledge that a player of his talents should really have achieved more to date. That said, he did win the Fedex Cup, and is another who has enjoyed past success in Asia winning, amongst other titles, the Malaysian Open on a similar setup. Mcilroy has finishes of 2nd and 9th in his three starts since that Fedex Cup win and this week is all about whether he can keep out of trouble on this tight setup. Mcilroy on form could take this course apart, but he looked sketchy in the skins game, and that regardless wasn't ideal preparation. I expect a top 10, but I can't be backing Rory just half a point bigger than Thomas, and I will therefore leave him here.
Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama (16/1) sits next in the betting. He was the stand out player during the skins game, and is fresh off a stunning 64 in the final round at Nine Bridges that secured a 3rd place finish. Hideki has to be seriously considered. Xander Schauffele (20/1) has played very little golf since his 2nd place to Rory at the Tour Championship. This is his first appearance in 6 weeks, and Asian conditions take some adjusting to. I can't have him at the price, although the requirement for a good long game does suit his strengths. Jordan Spieth (22/1), Paul Casey (22/1) and Adam Scott (22/1) make up the remainder of the market. Spieth we tipped last week, and he played excellently before falling away in the final round and dropping from 4th to 12th to miss the places. Casey also didn't play last week, but should be well enough adjusted to Asian conditions from a lot of experience playing in the region following his tie in with Japanese equipment manufacturer Mizuno. Scott finished 5th last week, and this longer, tighter course should suit him even more, and I expect to see him contend once more.
Rob’s Golf Betting Tips
Headline Betting Tip
Twenty Seven year old Japanese superstar Hideki Matsuyama will be feeling the pressure this week as he arrives desperate to win in his home country. Hideki has a total of eight wins on the Asian Tour, Hideki including six in Japan, in addition to the 2016 WGC-HSBC Championship, otherwise known as "Asia's Major" which he won a week after winning the Japan Open, and will be hoping for another success amongst illustrious company here in Narashino. As you'd expect, Matsuyama has the perfect game for this type of course. He has won The Memorial at Muirfield Village which is a tight Asian style course for his first PGA Tour victory back in 2014 and, of all the field, he will feel the most comfortable in these surroundings.
Last week Hideki improved his score from the previous round ever day, culminating in a stunning 64 that saw him finish inside the top 3, and I have no doubt that he can bring that form north across the Sea of Japan and be successful this week. The price for me seems far too big, especially with the security of making a profit on the each way side of the bet if Hideki at least finishes in the top 5. In such a limited field, and with his consistency I see this as one of the strongest bets of the season, and suggest our strongest staking strategy of the week with 4 points e/w at 16/1.
Other Betting Tips
Adam Scott is another who performed well last week, continuing his run of form from the Fedex Cup series where he achieved his highest ever finish, and he seems to be enjoying a revolution to his career over the second half of 2019. Scott has always had one of the best long games in golf, and he has been one of the best again over the last few months, ending the last season in the top 5 for strokes gained tee to green, and continuing that vein again last week finishing 3rd for that performance statistic and 5th in the tournament. Scott is another who has won at Muirfield Village and who I expect, with two weeks of Asian golf under his belt, to provide a stiff challenge to the leaders this week.
Scott does not have the win ratio that he should have for a player of his ability, but he does still have 29 Worldwide wins including the 2013 US Masters. A few months before his 40th birthday, and in the midst of one of the finest runs of his career, Norashino provides the perfect platform for Scott to once again contend for a title, and he is another I can't see not challenging over the weekend. I recommend a staking strategy of 2 points e/w at 22/1.
The final selection this week was not an easy one to make and in Jordan Spieth does again represent a degree of stepping into the unknown. Spieth was fresh from 10 weeks away from competitive golf when he arrived in Korea last week, but the three time Major winner and former World number one showed that class is permanent as he pushed Thomas the opening three rounds, before a disappointing closing 70 on the best day for scoring saw him drop back to 8th and miss out on the places. One bit of encouragement from that is that it again demonstrates that Spieth performs at his best when scoring is hard. This week at Norashino will be an entirely different and more challenging test to Nine Bridges. What else sits in Spieth's favour is the number of shorter holes. Jordan remains one of the finest wedge and short game proponents in the game, and the abundance of par 3s and short par 4s will offer him an even greater chance than last week.
The one area of conflict that I see with that for Spieth, is that to get into those positions, the all round long game needs to be working, and Jordan will need to drive the ball well. Last week was better than the rest of 2019 as he finished in the top 25 for total driving, but the field was reduced, and it remained one of his weakest performance stats. If Spieth can keep the ball on the fairways for 60% or more of the time, he has the game to really attack this course, and it is impossible to pass him over at a bigger price than last week with that tournament under his belt. I shall be having 2 points e/w at 22/1.
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*All odds from Bet UK’s online betting markets correct at the time of writing.
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