Power Rankings: See who's on top at ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
4 Min Read
Written by Rob Bolton @RobBoltonGolf
It’s not an international swing, at least not officially, but it’s still an international swing. From Japan to Mexico to Bermuda, that’s where you’ll find the PGA TOUR across the next four weeks.
The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Chiba, Japan, opens the stretch. It’s the fifth edition of the tournament and fourth contested at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club. The field of 78 is treated to the absence of a cut.
More on the tournament, the course and other details are below.
Nicolai Højgaard, Adam Scott and 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama will be among those reviewed in Golfbet Insider.
The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP anchors the first of the two three-week sprints to the finish line of the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season. They are bisected by a planned break next week. When all of the dust settles, the top 125 in the FedExCup will have fully exempt status in 2024. Those slotted 51-60 will be exempt into the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational. All of that and more is outlined here.
Spots in the aforementioned Signature Events are premium targets for many in Japan this week, but for most, jobs already are cemented for next year. For those pressured to perform, they land with the promise of four rounds at Accordia Golf Narashino CC.
The host is a par 70 with five par 3s and three par 5s. It’s a composite of the King and Queen Courses some 15 miles north of downtown Chiba. The unique feature of the holes isn’t unique to the country – double greens. Different strains of grass have been grown to accommodate playing time year-round. If any ball lands on a wrong green on the intended hole for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, a free drop off the putting surface and no nearer the hole is allowed.
The targets in play this week are bentgrass and they’re groomed to reach 12½ feet on the Stimpmeter. That’s speedy for the sensibilities of the 13 representatives of the Japan Tour Golf in particular, but winds expected to blow pretty good through the second round will govern pace. The energy will accompany daytime highs in the mid-70s. By the weekend, both the breezes and the temperatures will drop as it might not reach 70 degrees in primarily calm conditions in the second half of the event. So, although there isn’t a cut, it still could feel like a tournament within a tournament to post a 36-hole score amd use as a springboard when conditions ease.
Accordia Golf Narashino CC stretches just 7,079 yards, so it caters to all without a deeper dive. The last two winning scores were 15-under 265 even though last year’s average of 69.147 was more than a full stroke lower than it was in 2021. Still, would-be contenders will have fared well by default on the par 3s that rank among the easiest sets on the schedule. They will separate on the par 4s and par 5s that have sat inside the top-half hardest among all courses of the three previous seasons the TOUR has made the trip. (The 2020 edition was contested at Sherwood Country Club in California.)
With a good portion of the field now having logged significant muscle memory at Accordia Golf Narashino CC, ball-striking retreats into its familiar place as a piece of the equation and not the stand-out X-factor. Yet, with primary rough at 3½ inches and the challenge of the invisible force for a couple of days, irons step forward again as a premium early. The bonus is a low ball flight as a norm. It’ll be a joy for everyone who embraces the test.
Chiba is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Tims in the United States. Last year’s opening tee times were scheduled for 7:50 p.m. ET on Wednesday, but they could vary slightly this week. Adjust accordingly for your experience.
NOTE: ShotLink is not utilized for this tournament.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
MONDAY: Power Rankings
WEDNESDAY: Golfbet Insider
FRIDAY: Medical Extensions
SUNDAY: Payouts and Points, Qualifiers, Reshuffle
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
Rob Bolton is a Golfbet columnist for the PGA TOUR. The Chicagoland native has been playing fantasy golf since 1994, so he was just waiting for the Internet to catch up with him. Follow Rob Bolton on Twitter.