Power Rankings: ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
4 Min Read
The images that recently have circulated on social media of Tiger Woods standing and walking without crutches have served as a positive update on the 82-time PGA TOUR winner who suffered serious leg injuries in a automobile crash on Feb. 23. The timing of this week’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP follows nicely because Woods’ title at the inaugural edition in 2019 is his most recent.
This also marks the first time that the tournament returns to Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan. Because of the pandemic, the second staging was at Sherwood Country Club in California in 2020.
Of course, Woods remains unable to give it a go at Narashino, but a field of 78 has assembled nonetheless. Scroll past the projected contenders for details on the construct of the field, a breakdown of the host course and more.
Erik van Rooyen, Ryan Palmer, Emiliano Grillo and Charley Hoffman will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
Just as THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT was contested in conjunction with professional golfers from South Korea and its native KPGA, the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP is a reflection of the partnership with the Japan Golf Tour for which numerous exemptions are reserved.
As of Monday, 18 JGTO members were in the field, and that doesn’t include Satoshi Kodaira, who is a dual-tour member of the JGTO and the PGA TOUR. Also, the world’s top-ranked amateur, Keita Nakajima of Japan, is making his TOUR debut. He’s already a JGTO champion as the winner of the Panasonic Open just four weeks ago.
Of the 78 overall who competed at Narashino CC in 2019, only 24 are back this week, so this will be the first no-cut tournament for many who have qualified. What they’ll find is a fun test with visual reminders of how golf courses originally were designed and built in Japan.
Every hole at Narashino has two greens. In a sense, they are time capsules to an age when the solution to a four-season climate was to grow different grasses and open (or close) the greens based on the season. With the agronomical advances and technological improvements introduced since, it’s easier to extend the use of most grasses.
The greens at Narashino consist of bentgrass, and it’s possible that multiple greens will be used at some point during the tournament. In 2019, both of the targets at the par-4 fourth hole were opened at least once. (One only green per hole is used per round. If a golfer lands on the wrong green at any time, he is provided a free drop off the surface and no nearer the hole.)
Although recent rain could prevent it, the goal is to reach 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. That’s up from 11½ feet in 2019, but even that took a hit when nearly 10 inches of rain fell before the second round. That the course was playable further proved how capable grounds crews can be in responding to suboptimal conditions. However, the 376-yard, par-4 10th hole was constrained to just 140 yards for the second round. Par was retained and the field averaged 2.895 with 16 eagles, 52 birdies and eight pars. (Two golfers withdrew prior to the second round.)
For the week, the 2019 field averaged 69.516 on the par-70 composite course. That aligned with what TPC Southwind yielded for the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational later in the season, also then a 78-man invitational with no cut. The ZOZO field averaged 12.17 greens in regulation but just 3.35 par breakers on those chances, the latter slotting as the seventh-lowest percentage among all courses in 2019-20. The stingier split likely had something to do with the unfamiliarity of the greens and the slower pace as compared to most courses the TOUR uses in the United States.
Narashino includes five par 3s and three par 5s. It can stretch to 7,041 yards. Different strains of zoysiagrass blankets all surfaces that aren’t used for putting. En route to his victory, Woods led the field in par-3 scoring and ranked T9 in par-5 scoring. He finished T3 in greens in regulation, first in converting those looks into 27 birdies and first in putts per GIR. (ShotLink is not utilized in this event.)
Once again, rain is forecast for Friday’s second round. It’s not expected to be anywhere as heavy as the deluge of 2019, but it’s worth the attention. That also will be the only day during which the daytime high temperature won’t climb into the 60s. Otherwise, relatively calm and cool air will command the elements.
Chiba, Japan, is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time in the U.S., so adjust your viewing and monitoring accordingly. The 2019 edition started at 7:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday