After watching Tom Kim secure his second PGA TOUR win at the Shriners Children’s Open, the PGA TOUR travels all the way from Las Vegas to Japan for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. Located in Chiba, Accordia Golf Narashino CC (par 70, 7,041 yards, Bentgrass greens) will host this fall event. The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP was also played at Accordia last season and two years ago, with that middle outlier being played at Sherwood CC in California due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Last season, Hideki Matsuyama won at Accordia at 15-under and Tiger Woods won at this par 70 two years ago at 19-under.
Accordia is a unique parkland venue, that features two small greens on each hole, which is a common trait for Japanese courses. While only one green will be in play each round, it will alternate every day which green is being played on each hole. With narrow treelined fairways on almost every hole at Accordia, being accurate is far more important than being long off the tee. When Woods came out victorious at this at track two years ago, he led the field in fairways gained. The tiny putting surfaces at Accordia also make precise approach play a necessity, with Matsuyama leading his field in GIR last season and Woods finishing third in the stat in 2019.
On the scorecard, Accordia is also a very untraditional course, with five par threes, three par fives and 10 par fours – five of which land between 450-500 yards. As always, par four performance will be vital – Matsuyama and Woods finished in the top five in strokes gained on the par fours – but efficiency on the par threes has been even more critical for success at Accordia, with both of these ZOZO champions at this rare par 70 leading their fields in strokes gained on the par threes.
The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP doesn’t feature a cut and is a limited field of only 78 golfers, which has been the case since this tournament’s inception three years ago. 10 of the top-30 ranked players in the world are making the trip to Chiba this week, including Matsuyama in his title defense, Kim seeking his third victory in less than a three-month span and Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele, who will be making their 2023 PGA TOUR debut, with the latter the betting favorite to win the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP on the DraftKings Sportsbook at +800. To roster these lucrative players, we must seek out some cheaper golfers that will out produce their low salaries, and below, I have featured four of my favorite bargain plays for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP that all cost less than $7.5K on DraftKings.
Luke List ($7,300) – With no cut to worry about this week, rolling the dice on List is a savvy move. The 37-year-old flourished at Accordia last year, posting a T7 finish and is always a sharp target without a cutline, ranking eighth in total strokes gained when we analyze this field’s last 50 rounds at no-cut tournaments. List’s work on the greens has held him back lately, but his ball striking has been strong, gaining strokes on approach at five straight events. If List can find any sort of rhythm with his putter this week, he should beat this low price tag with ease.
Adam Schenk ($6,900) – Schenk has competed at both of the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIPS played at Accordia, finishing inside the top 30 on both occasions. The Purdue graduate now returns to Chiba in very encouraging form, on the heels of a T12 at the Shriners Children’s Open. During this start, Schenk ranked sixth in SG: Approach and also gained strokes on the bentgrass greens at TPC Summerlin. The 30-year-old has now advanced to the weekend in three of his past four starts, gaining strokes on approach during all three of those made cuts. Furthermore, Schenk ranks 13th in total strokes gained when we compare this field’s last 50 rounds at courses specifically with bentgrass putting surfaces. At this sub $7K price point, Schenk must be included in your player pool this week.
Adam Long ($6,900) – Long has shown some great upside recently, racking up five top-30 finishes in his last seven starts. The 35-year-old finished T25 at Accordia last season and checks every box for the par 70 in his current form. Over his last 24 rounds, Long ranks first in both greens in regulation and bogeys avoided. Additionally, the Duke product ranks seventh in SG: Putting, third in strokes gained on par fours and fourth in strokes gained on par threes. Playing this type of golf, another top-25 finish at Accordia is absolutely possible for Long.
Hayden Buckley ($6,800) – Buckley has to be backed at this low salary. The 26-year-old has carded back-to-back top-20 finishes, while collectively gaining strokes on approach and with his flat stick at both tournaments. Overall, Buckley has only missed one cut in his last 10 starts - with six top-30 finishes during this run – and ranks 18th in DKFP over his last 24 rounds, which certainly bodes well with a no-cut tournament on the menu for this week.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Hunta512) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.