The ZOZO Championship: An the man in Japan

Korea's Byeong Hun An
Korea's Byeong Hun An

The PGA Tour stays in Asia this week and Dave Tindall has three picks for the action in Japan...

"In terms of this week's course, he's a former winner at tree-lined Wentworth while Sedgefield - scene of his top three at the Wyndham - is another par 70 where strategy counts for more than pure power."

Byeong Hun An each-way @ 45/1

Main Bet: Byeong Hun An each-way @ 45/1

A first PGA Tour event in Japan on a course where none of the 78-man field have ever played competitively isn't exactly ideal from a punting point of view.

What do we know? Well, it's tree-lined and not too long (7,041 yards), so representative of courses in this part of the world. Therefore, other Japan form may be of use.

It also has five par 3s and just three par 5s, adding to the idea that boomers and bombers will have some of their powers restricted.

We have actually had a sneak peek at the track as it staged Monday's Skins game between Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama.

It was hardly sparkling stuff but something worth noting was that conditions were fairly soft after recent rains, prompting McIlroy to say that they could fire at some pins.

Further rain is expected throughout the tournament and it's set to be windy for the first 36 holes so this will be a test.

I'll start with a punt at 45/1 on Byeong Hun An.

The Korean has been hinting at a breakout first victory on the PGA Tour in recent months.

He took third at both the Wyndham Championship and Sanderson Farms Championship while a fast-starting 64 helped him take tied sixth in last week's CJ Cup on home South Korean soil.

An had strong stats, ranking third on the All-Around and fourth for Putting Average.

In terms of this week's course, he's a former winner at tree-lined Wentworth while Sedgefield - scene of his top three at the Wyndham - is another par 70 where strategy counts for more than pure power.

While The Country Club of Jackson is longer, it's also tree-lined so An has some strong form threading shots through corridors.

After some good knocks at the door, Asia would be a good place for it to open. Take the 45/1.

Next Best: Adam Hadwin each-way @ 45/1

In terms of pure form, one of the eyecatchers taking part this week is Adam Hadwin.

Looking at his last two starts, the Canadian was fourth at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas and that followed his second place in the Safeway Open.

He ranked 1st for Greens in Regulation at both events, hitting over 90% in Vegas.

Add in tied sixth at his home Canadian Open and a top four in the 3M Open and he's landed the place money four times in his last nine starts.

Speaking at the Shriners, he said: "Some of the best I've hit it in years now. Basically hit almost every line off the tee and into the green. Distance control has been off the charts the last couple weeks." Good news for some successful firing at the pins.

Playing-wise, one added bonus, given that we have an extra short hole, is that Hadwin ranks 1st for Par 3 Scoring Average. Okay, it's early days in that category but it's another sign that he's hitting his irons great.

As for the incentive approach, there's that too: Hadwin wants to make Ernie Els' International Presidents Cup team but needs a pick.

"I finished a bit back in the points of that top eight," he said. "I felt as though having played a couple years ago, having had a decent season on tour, that if I could come out and play some decent golf I would at least get myself in the running.

"It's nice to start the year here with two good events. Obviously we still got three or four weeks until he has to make a decision, but I feel like I've put myself in good spot right now."

Another big week here and Els will find him very hard to ignore.

Like An, he's a 45/1 chance.

Final Bet: Shugo Imahira each-way @ 80/1

It's unlikely on a new and testing course that the best players will simply have it all their own way and there's scope to get a few outsiders in the frame.

Looking at the home challenge, Hideki Matsuyama doesn't seem to be any great value at 18/1 but a couple of his Japanese compatriots could be interesting at bigger odds given their knowledge of home courses.

Ryo Ishikawa has enjoyed a couple of recent wins although it's a little bit damning that he hasn't managed a single top seven (that's the number of payout places on offer this week) in a regular PGA Tour event in nearly 70 attempts going back to 2014.

Shugo Imahira has had little experience in such fields but T33 in the Sony Open followed by T39 at the WGC-Mexico Championship were decent efforts.

Since then, he's been a virtual ever-present in the top 10 in Japanese Tour events and took victory in the Bridgestone Open just two starts ago before taking T12 in last week's Japan Open.

It may surprise some that he's as high as 52nd in the world rankings so he's getting ever closer to the world's top 50 and all the opportunities which spring from that.

He looks an interesting contender at 80/1.

Dave's 2019/20 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £180
Returned: £97.60
P/L: -£82.40

2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

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