The European Tour hops from mainland Spain to Mallorca and the PGA Tour visits Japan. Our man looks at the long odds options at both events here including a 999/1 trade...
"Nakajima's played just 11 times on the Japan Tour in the last 12 months but he’s finished inside the top-20 seven times with the highlights being an eighth place finish in the Dunlop Phoenix, third in the Taiheiyo Masters, second in the Token Homemate Cup and less then a month ago he won the Panasonic Open."
We've got two really tricky events to assess this week. The Mallorca Golf Open (previewed here) is a one-off tournament staged at a venue last used 23 years ago and the ZOZO Championship (previewed here) returns to the Narashino Country Club in Japan for just the second time after the event's second edition was played in California last year because of the pandemic. Tiger Woods won the inaugural edition at Narashino in 2019.
The field isn't strong in Mallorca and the two players I was interested in for the column haven't drifted as far as I'd hoped they might. Although I was probably being optimistic to think either Niall Kearney or James Morrison might reach 100.099/1.
If he was playing fractionally better, Jorge Campillo would be an interesting runner this week given he won the Spanish National Under 14 event at Santa Ponsa 21 years ago. He's bound to be inspired by the memory but he's not been at his best for a long while so I'm going to a flyer and someone from even further leftfield.
Take a leftfield punt on a rising Chinese star
China's Bai Zhengkai has been plying his trade on the Korn Ferry Tour over the last year or so with only limited success but he might just contend in this grade given he won on both the PGA China Tour and the Challenge Tour only two years ago.
His best finishes on the KFT this year are a sixth place at the Huntsville Championship in May and 13th at the Utah Championship in August, in his penultimate start, but that was a really encouraging effort given he led at the halfway stage.
Bai Zhengkai, nicknamed 'Bobby' Bai, became the first Chinese player to win on the Challenge Tour when he triumphed on home-soil at the 2019 Foshan Open almost exactly two years ago. He birdied the last four holes in-a-row in round four to win by four and that came a month after he'd finished second in the Haikou Classic and four months after he'd won the Huangshan Championship.
Promising amateur worth chancing in the place markets
The chances of a rank outsider winning the ZOZO Championship look decidedly slim. The front three in the market - Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa and Hideki Matsuyama - look particularly strong and having seen the first two editions go to Tiger Woods and Patrick Cantlay, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see one of the class acts take the third renewal.
Of those trading at triple-figures, I thought Sebastian Munoz, who was beaten in the bronze medal playoff at the Olympics in Japan three months ago, was interesting but I'd have wanted bigger than 110.0109/1 given what he's done since. He's missed three of his last four cuts and in seven starts, he hasn't managed to finish inside the top-20 so I'm going to leave him out and instead I've played the extremely promising amateur, Keita Nakajima.
The world number one amateur and world number 216, finished fifth behind Abraham Ancer in the 2018 Australian Open when only 18, beating the likes of Viktor Hovland and Cam Smith. He got into the event after winning the Australian Amateur and having not played many pro events since, he's clearly showing his class this year.
He's played just 11 times on the Japan Tour in the last 12 months but he's finished inside the top-20 seven times with the highlights being an eighth place finish in the Dunlop Phoenix, third in the Taiheiyo Masters, second in the Token Homemate Cup and less then a month ago he won the Panasonic Open.
The Japan Tour is far from a strong tour but those results are still impressive and he's clearly a player for the future. It would be quite remarkable to see him contend strongly in a tournament of this stature so early in his career but with only 78 players in the field, a top-30 finish is perfectly plausible and a top-20 is doable too. And the fact that the Sportsbook are an industry-best of 9/1 and 9/2 about the two outcomes is a plus.
I'll be back on Thursday or Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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