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The ZOZO Championship Preview

The ZOZO Championship
The ZOZO Championship is being held at the Accordia Golf Narashino CC this weekend.  It is the second of three events to be held in Asia by the PGA tour and the first to be held in Japan this year.  The inaugural ZOZO Championship is co sanctioned by the Japanese Golf Tour Organisation and has a purse of $9.75 million on offer to a 78 man field.  This is a no cut event with the top 60 available PGA players from last year's FedEx Cup standings qualifying along with the top seven from the Japan Golf Tour, 3 from the recent Bridgestone Open and 8 sponsor exemptions.
The Field
Tiger Woods is playing his first event this year and the first since minor knee surgery.  He is now only one win short of equalling Sam Snead's record of 81 PGA Tour wins.  Hideki Matsuyama is in good form heading back to his home country with a 3rd and 16th finish in his last two PGA Tour events.  The field also features Open Champion Shane Lowry, tour player of the year Rory McIlroy as well as Justin Thomas and Jordan Speith.
Justin Thomas is definitely in form coming off the back of last week's CJ Cup win, he also finished tied 4th at the Safeway Open, 3rd in the Tour Championship and won the BMW Championship. The greens at Narashino are bentgrass, Rory McIlroy has the most tour wins on bentgrass greens with six dating back to 2008.
The Course
The Narashino course itself is a par 70, 7,041 yard track in a parkland setting.  It features five par 3's, only three par 5's and ten par 4's so it is not your typical course layout.  The tree lined course has smallish greens with plenty of dog legs.  Interestingly like a lot of Japanese courses each hole features two greens which ZOZO plan on using.  The ten par 4's are a mix of short and long holes with the shorter ones presenting good birdie opportunities.  However on the longer par 4's if your in trouble off the tee you will struggle to make par.
The Verdict
This is a world class field for the inaugural ZOZO Championship, I am going with Hideki Matsuyama to win in front of his home crowd.  He is 18/1 with Bet 365 at the moment.  Paddy Power is offering 7 places and players with longer odds may be worth considering like Scott Piercy (125/1) and Kevin Streelman (90/1).
By Dan Cole

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