The First Look: ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
October 17, 2021
By Adam Stanley , PGATOUR.COM
Hideki Matsuyama's journey to the PGA TOUR
The PGA TOUR heads back to Asia for the first time since late 2019 as the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP returns to Japan after being contested in California in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
FIELD NOTES: Collin Morikawa is the top golfer in the field next week… Fellow Ryder Cup participants Xander Schauffele and Tommy Fleetwood are also teeing it up… Japan’s hometown hero Hideki Matsuyama will be in the field… The event is co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) once again in 2021 (it was not in 2020) and there will be 13 members of the JGTO teeing it up at the ZOZO… Notable Sponsor Exemptions include Wesley Bryan, Fleetwood, and reigning PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Will Zalatoris… The majority of the field comes from the top-60 available players from the 2020-21 FedExCup standings including multi-time TOUR winners Kevin Na and Cameron Champ… Rickie Fowler will make his debut in front of the Japanese fans. He played last year’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in California.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 FedExCup points.
COURSE: Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, par 70, 7,041 yards. The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP returns to Narashino Country Club – which hosted the inaugural event, won by Tiger Woods, in 2019. The course, opened in 1965, is a 36-hole facility in Chiba, Japan and has hosted plenty of high-level golf events in the past prior to the TOUR making its debut in Japan.
STORYLINES: Hideki Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champion, will get a hero’s welcome in Japan as the TOUR will be allowed to play in front of 5,000 fans per day. Will Matsuyama be able to give Japan’s golf fans one more big win to cheer about in 2021?... In the TOUR’s history Matsuyama is the winningest Japanese golfer of all time with six triumphs. Five Japanese players have won a total of 12 times on TOUR… Xander Schauffele is hoping to re-create even more magic in Japan this year after topping the field at the Olympics and winning the gold medal this summer… Keep an eye out for Keita Nakajima. He became the second consecutive Japanese golfer to win the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the world’s top amateur. The 21-year-old has spent 30 total weeks since November 2020 on top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking… Last year’s winner was Takumi Kanaya. Kanaya has since turned professional and will be in the ZOZO field as well as he was one of the top-7 in the JGTO Order of Merit.
72-HOLE RECORD: 261, Tiger Woods (2019)
18-HOLE RECORD: 63, Keegan Bradley (Second round, 2019), Rory McIlroy (Third round, 2019)
Tournament Record: 61, Richy Werenski (Second round, 2020 @ Sherwood)
LAST TIME: Patrick Cantlay won his first event on the season en route to capturing the FedExCup after rallying from four shots back after 54 holes to win last season’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP – contested at Sherwood Country Club. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the event was moved from Japan to the United States. Cantlay, who finished at 23-under for the week, notched four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to close with a 7-under 65. He won by one over Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm – the third victory of his career. Russell Henley, Cameron Smith, Bubba Watson, and Ryan Palmer finished at 19-under to round out the top five. The 2019 winner, Tiger Woods, finished T72. He and Phil Mickelson played in the final round together in front of no fans due to COVID-19 protocols.
HOW TO FOLLOW
Television: Wednesday (into Thursday)-Thursday (into Friday): 11:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. ET (Golf Channel). Friday (into Saturday)-Saturday (into Sunday): 11:30 p.m.-2:45 a.m.