Zozo Championship Tips: Matsuyama can score home win

Hideki Matsuyama is the man to beat, says Dave
Hideki Matsuyama is the man to beat, says Dave

The PGA Tour heads to Japan and Dave Tindall - who supplied two placed golfers at last week's CJ Cup - has three each-way tips for the action at Narashino Country Club in Chiba...

"Matsuyama will be giving it everything this week and hopefully he can 'do a Tiger' and follow up his Masters victory by winning here in the same calendar year."

Hideki Matsuyama each-way @ 13.012/1

Main Bet: Hideki Matsuyama each-way @ 13.012/1

This is just the third edition of the Zozo Championship and, due to the pandemic moving the tournament to American soil last year, punters only have one year of course form at Narashino Country Club.

That was the 2019 event won in surprise and yet non surprise fashion by Tiger Woods, who many thought had produced enough magic for the year after his extraordinary Masters win.

Woods went into that inaugural Zozo with form figures of 37-WD-MC and hadn't played competitively in over two months.

Of course, Tiger won't be taking part this time as he recovers from a car crash although there's good news on that front after recent pictures of him walking without crutches.

It's a limited field of 78 and just 24 players from the class of 2019 return to give it another go.

In terms of location form, there are 18 players who contested the recent Olympic Games men's golf tournament. That bunch includes gold medal winner Xander Schauffele, bronze medalist C.T. Pan and four others who took part in the play-off for third spot - Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey and Sebastian Munoz.

Will Zalatoris also takes part and the youngster, who finished runner-up at the Masters, said this: "The course is in incredible shape. I've heard from a lot of veterans that some of the best greens in the world are in Japan and I saw that today, especially the place is flawless.

"I played nine with Harry Higgs and we were making comparisons to some other courses that we've played over in the States and it was kind of fun kind of making a hodgepodge of comparisons from, you know, we talked about Olympia Fields, Augusta."

Hmmm. That interests me as my very first thought here was that Matsuyama looked interesting at 12/1 - double that of Schauffele and Morikawa.

If those two comparison courses are worth something then the Japanese star won at Augusta earlier this year and finished third in last year's BMW Championship at Olympia Fields.

And not only do we have correlation course form, we have actual course form: Matsuyama was runner-up here at Narashino in the first edition of the Zozo in 2019.

He wasn't particularly great in the two birdie-fests in Vegas, failing to build on respective openers of 65 and 66, but did place tied sixth in his season-opener at the Fortinet Championship.

Matsuyama will be giving it everything this week and hopefully he can 'do a Tiger' and follow up his Masters victory by winning here in the same calendar year.

Next Best: Maverick McNealy each-way @ 34.033/1

There was a lot of expectation and pressure on Maverick McNealy at last week's CJ CUP.

It quickly became known that he was a member of the Summit Course and word spread that he had once shot 61 there. Plenty of his rivals when speaking to the press made mention of him having a real edge.

But, as so often is the case, the hometown boy couldn't live up to the extra demands and had to settle for a midfield finish of tied 38th after shooting 69-65-69-70.

However, with the focus no longer on him, McNealy could just be freed up to play some great golf again here.

Runner-up in the Fortinet Championship three starts ago, he's flashed plenty of his vast potential during a stretch which produced seven straight top 30s over the summer, four of those doubling as top 20s.

This is the 25-year-old's first start in Japan but he's a quick learner and finishing second in the Fortinet could prove a decent pointer given that Silverado is another tree-lined course with no great length.

This week's track, Narashino, measures just 7,041 yards and, somewhat unusually for a par 70, features five par 3s and three par 5s.

Putting the perfectly-manicured Bentgrass greens well was a big pointer in 2019: the first three home ranked 2nd, 1st and 4th for Putting Average.

McNealy ranked 1st for Putting Average at Silverado last month and that adds another layer of confidence.

Take the rising star in the land of the rising sun at 33/1.

Final Bet: C.T. Pan each-way @ 41.040/1

I looked at in-form Harry Higgs and hot putter Mackenzie Hughes for my final pick. Both are 55/1.

But, at 40s, I think C.T. Pan ticks plenty of boxes.

For starters, this short track should suit and a quick check of the CV of C.T. shows him winning at the fiddly, tree-lined Hilton Head in 2019.

He did actually play this course the same year but arrived in poor form (56-MC-MC) and had to be content with tied 59th. It wasn't a total write-off though and he was seventh after day one.

I prefer to focus on the obvious positives the man from Chinese Tapei has on his side this week.

For starters, he has the best Putting Average in the field over the last eight weeks.

That impressive work on the greens has helped him finish tied sixth in the Fortinet at Silverado (short, tree-lined) and tied 11th in the Sanderson Farms Championship.

As well as that strong recent form, Pan also has some extremely fond memories of Japan after winning bronze at the Olympics back in the summer.

He closed 66-66-63 to burst through the field and make the podium and was ranked 6th for Putting Average that week.

Winning a seven-man play-off against the likes of Rory McIlroy, Matsuyama, Morikawa and Casey with an Olympic medal on the line will have acted as a huge confidence booster.

Let's hope it triggers something in him again on his return to Japan.

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Dave's P/L for 2021/22

Staked: £120
Returned: £107.25
P/L: -£12.75

Previous:
2020/2021 P/L: +£1475.87
2019/2020 P/L: +£13.83
2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

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