Course Spotlight: Betting edge at ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP lies inside the scorecard
3 Min Read
Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga
While everyone wonders what Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee will yield, or analyzes the approach buckets, we are going to take a different view of betting this week at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.
Sometimes the scorecard shares a detail or two that most handicappers overlook. Total par and yardage are important, but what happens when we look past the boilerplate details? How many have really studied the layout at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club? Researching the venue from home always provides an alternative perspective to being on the property.
Historical data is limited overseas when it comes to Strokes Gained. When we look at the three winners of the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, do we see any trends? Going back, Keegan Bradley, Hideki Matsuyama and Tiger Woods all took home the trophy. They share many winning talents, but if I had to pick just one it would be long-iron play. All three are very accurate from far away. That skill helped them on the five par 4s over 485 yards but that wasn’t the only element that gave them an edge to capture the title.
Keegan Bradley on being inspired by Tiger Woods to win ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club has FIVE par 3s. That means the field of 78 players will play 20 par 3s over 72 holes. That is four extra perfect lies on approach than a typical TOUR stop. Nearly 30% of the holes will be a par 3 at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. Of those in the field, Eric Cole (+2800 BetMGM) leads the TOUR in par-3 performance. He is closely followed in the field by Rickie Fowler, Aaron Baddeley, Mark Hubbard and Sam Ryder.
Let’s look deeper and check that performance over the past 24 rounds. Cole still leads the pack, then Mark Hubbard (+6600 BetMGM), Bradley, Dylan Wu and Nicolai Højgaard. Seeing Bradley listed is further proof we are on the right track toward a weekend wager success. Cole is having a tremendous rookie year, and this could be the edge he needs to grab that first win.
Playing the par 3s under par is also worth evaluating. The leaders among those in the field are Nick Hardy, Emiliano Grillo, Eric Cole, Sahith Theegala, and Fowler(+1600 BetMGM). Fowler was runner-up at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in 2022. Further traction toward our hypothesis of success stems from par 3s. Hubbard’s name has popped up twice in our research. His ball-striking was excellent at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Hubbard missed the cut in Las Vegas, but season-long and recent form shows his par-3 performance has been great.
We cannot build a card off of one analytic, but it can create a winning edge. Over the last 24 rounds, the top 10 SG: Tee-to-Green players heading to Japan with a top-10 performance on the par 3s include Callum Tarren (+8000 BetMGM) and Adam Svensson (+4000 BetMGM). Svensson is a great middle-tier betting option with three straight top-20 finishes. Tarren sits further down the board and has been leading in the TOUR ball striking categories since the FedExCup Fall started.
Funny thing, pre-tournament favorites Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa didn’t show up in our analysis. Ever wonder why the favorite doesn’t always win? Small details make a big difference over four rounds. Find an edge each week and your chances of winning will be better than those at the top of the betting board.
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Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.