Zozo Championship First-Round Leader Tips: Try Japanese duo at Narashino

Japan's Satoshi Kodaira can make his mark early
Japan's Satoshi Kodaira can make his mark early

The PGA Tour heads to Japan and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks to be First Round Leader at Narashino Country Club...

"He'd started the Japan Open with a 66, the same Thursday score he posted at the previous week's Bridgestone Open, and a check of the 18-hole positions shows him in the top four after day one in both tournaments."

Back Satoshi Kodaira E/W @ 81.080/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places

Weather forecast for Thursday: It's going to be overcast and cool on day one at Narashino Country Club. In contrast to the very hot weather we saw at the summer's Olympics in Tokyo, temperatures will only just reach the mid-60s although winds are very light at 4-5mph. It's three-balls from two tees so the whole field starts between 08:30 and 10:20 local.

Count on Kodaira

Satoshi Kodaira is a fairly well-known figure on the PGA Tour and has a win under his belt after denying Si-Woo Kim in a play-off at the RBC Heritage.

That's said through gritted teeth as quite a few of us were on Kim at 100/1.

But maybe Kodaira can get back in the good books here on another short, tree-lined course as he has some decent credentials for an 80/1 shot.

The 32-year-old from Tokyo sprinkled several top 20s on the PGA Tour at the back end of last season and he comes here after finishing tied 11th in the Japan Open last week.

Kodaira was second after 54 holes there so it was hardly a backdoor tied 11th.

He'd started the Japan Open with a 66, the same Thursday score he posted at the previous week's Bridgestone Open, and a check of the 18-hole positions shows him in the top four after day one in both tournaments.

In the 2019 Zozo held here, Kodaira opened 69-66 so there's some course form too.

Back the local man to set the pace at 80/1.

Inamori could spring a surprise

Japanese Tour player Yuki Inamori is at the very bottom of the first-round leader betting and yet he does have some interesting plus points.

The 27-year-old is a two-time winner of the Japan Open after taking the title in both 2018 and 2020 and is in good nick again at home after three top 10s in his last four starts.

What also makes him stand out is a look at the Japan Tour's Par 3 charts. There are five Par 3s at Narashino and Inamori is an absolute mile clear for Par 3 Performance. He's played the short holes in 30-under this season and his nearest rival is just 10-under.

Earlier this year he shot 29 for nine holes at the Fukushima Open, eventually carding a 63 which gave him the first-round lead.

A more recent check shows that he's played three times this month and shot openers of 66, 67 and 69. He ended day one in fourth and eighth in two of those.

Let's have a whirl at 110/1.

Make it Munoz

It's likely that the big guns will prove too strong over 72 holes but for 18 it's reasonable to expect the leaderboard to be more random.

So I'll again look a little further down the betting and back Sebastian Munoz.

The Colombian finished tied third in the Olympics in Tokyo, losing a seven-way play-off for bronze, and two starts earlier he'd made the top four at the John Deere Classic after starting with a 63 to take the first-round lead.

He's since been in the top 10 after day one in three other events and, after a rough start to the new campaign, he built some confidence back with 69-67-71-68 at last week's CJ Cup.

It was held at a different course but Munoz was also the first-round leader in this event 12 months ago - one of two October tournaments in which he topped the R1 charts - so he likes this time of year.

Back him to fly out of the gate again at 55/1.

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