DraftKings PGA: The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP

DraftKings PGA: The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.

THE ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP

Purse: $8M
Winner's Share: $1.44M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Course: Sherwood Country Club
Yardage: 7,073
Par: 72
2019 Champion: Tiger Woods (Narashino Country Club)

Tournament Preview

If you thought last week's field was good, check this out: 25 of the top 30 players in the world are in Los Angeles for the relocated ZOZO Championship – and that doesn't even include defending champion Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The limited field is so packed – and the tournament doesn't automatically hold a berth for the defending champ – that the 28th-ranked Woods is technically playing on a sponsor's exemption, as is Mickelson. How's that for loaded? If that's not crazy enough, the No. 18 player in the world, Louis Oosthuizen, can't even get in – he's an alternate. And Matt Kuchar was on the outside looking in until Dustin Johnson withdrew for a second straight week due to a positive COVID-19 test.

More on Tiger: Sherwood is short and he is very familiar with it. This likely will be his best chance all year – and maybe ever – to break the PGA Tour's all-time wins record he currently shares with Sam Snead. He won No. 82 at last year's ZOZO. His other best chance will come in his next start next month at the Masters. That's right, Woods will be defending two titles in the next four weeks – that hasn't happened in more than a decade. Woods is priced this week at $9000, which was 15th on the DraftKings board before Johnson's WD. There definitely is some Tiger-love built into that price. Of course, it goes without saying that everything in this entire paragraph is dependent on the status of Woods' balky back.

The ZOZO debuted last year as the first PGA Tour event to ever be played in Japan. Because of the pandemic, it will be played this year at Sherwood, which will be much more familiar to the golfers, and golf fans, than last week's Shadow Ranch. It played host to Greg Norman's Shark Shootout team event through the 1990s, then Woods' tournament from 2000-2013 and a Champions Tour event from 2016-2019. We'll get to a full course breakdown in a minute.

For the second week in a row, we'll see a 78-man, no-cut field. The ZOZO is co-sponsored by the PGA and Japan Tours, so the field breaks down like this: top-60 available from last season's FedEx top-125, 11 Japan Tour players and seven sponsor exemptions, which include Woods, Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood. Among the Japanese contingent is 22-year-old Takumi Kanaya, who is now the former No. 1-ranked amateur because he's making his second start as a pro. He finished seventh in the Japan Open Golf Championship last week.  

Sherwood is a Jack Nicklaus design. Woods won his 18-man Hero World Challenge there five times, lastly in 2011, and finished runner-up five times. It's worth noting the last five winners of the Hero at Sherwood were Zach Johnson in 2013, Graeme McDowell in 2012, Woods in 2011, McDowell in 2010 and Jim Furyk in 2009. In other words, mostly short hitters. Heck, even Luke Donald won there in 2005. Sherwood is a short course under any metric, but certainly as a par-72. The longest hole is the 572-yard 13th, which is part of a weird back-nine that includes three par-3s, three par-4s and three par-5s. In all, there are five par-3s and five par-5s.

It sure sounds as if the golfers could go super-low, right? Short course, five par-5s. The four winners of the Champions Tour's Invesco QQQ Championship fell between 11- and 14-under – but remember,  they played only 54 holes. In the 14 years that Woods' event was player at Sherwood, winning scores ranged from 10- to 22-under – in cooler, possibly rainy December climes. So don't be surprised if the winning score is 20-under. Since the course is so short, the main defenses are water hazards affecting eight holes, tough pin placements on the average-size Bentgrass greens and, potentially, wind. No matter how you slice it, Sherwood is a second-shot golf course, another feature that should benefit Woods.

Weather-wise, temperatures are forecast to be on the chilly side, getting into the 70s only on Thursday. Temperatures will dip into the 50s and maybe even the 40s overnight, but with such a small field they won't be starting so early. There's no chance of rain and the winds are forecast to be light to moderate, nothing extreme right now.

Key Stats to Winning at Sherwood CC

The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.

• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Birdie-or-better Percentage

Past Champions

2019 – Tiger Woods (Narashino Country Club)

Champion's Profile

Even though we detailed a lot of prior tournament information about Sherwood, none of it was especially recent and a lot has changed in golf in just a few years. So we'll be basic here. We do know that this is a second-shot golf course. So, as in most weeks on Tour, we'll accentuate the approach game. Putting has also shown to be important here, more than in most places. Indications are scores will be low; the winner will have to make a lot of birdies and even eagles. Golfodds.com posted the winning score at over/under 270.5 – 17.5 under par. It could be even lower than that.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

Tier 1 Values 

Tyrrell Hatton - $10,000 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 20-1)
Hatton is proving he can compete with the sport's best under any circumstances. Coming off a win at Wentworth two weeks ago, he traveled to the States and didn't miss a beat, tying for third at the CJ Cup. Now up No. 9 in the world rankings, Hatton ranked fourth on Tour last season in both Strokes Gained: Approach and BOB percentage.  

Collin Morikawa - $9,800 (25-1)
Morikawa has quietly moved up to a career-best fourth in the OWGR, overtaking Rory McIlroy thanks to a tie for 12th at the CJ Cup. The result was a good sign after he missed consecutive cuts for the first time in his young career and failed to play the weekend three times in his previous five starts. That stretch followed Morikawa's win at the PGA Championship, so maybe he's finally past the post-major hangover. He's now back in more familiar surroundings on the West Coast. He ranked second on Tour last season in SG: Approach.

Patrick Reed - $9,600 (25-1)
Reed is teeing it up on Tour for the first time in five weeks, his first appearance since the U.S. Open. But he has not been completely idle, having played at Wentworth two weeks ago and tying for third. Reed has one of the elite short games on Tour but really made strides last season in other areas. He ranked 13th in BOB percentage.

Tier 2 Values

Viktor Hovland - $9,200 (35-1)
Hovland has not missed a cut since February – and won't miss one this week, either! He tied for 12th last week a the CJ Cup, his third straight top-20 and fourth in five weeks. He hasn't been contending, but he's now inside the top 25 of the OWGR for the first time, at No. 24. Hovland ranked seventh in SG: Approach last season. His short game is his weakness, but he's shown vast improvement in that department the past few weeks.

Matthew Wolff - $9,100 (30-1)
Completing the Class of '19 triumvirate, we turn to Wolff. He's coming off a 73rd-place finish in the 78-man CJ Cup. But coming after two straight runners-up, that seemed like a trap week – much like a trap game in the NFL. This week will be tantamount to a home game for the native of Agoura Hills, Calif., which is just about five miles from Sherwood. He's surely familiar with the course and it's a much better fit for him than was Shadow Ranch in Las Vegas.

Matthew Fitzpatrick - $8,300 (40-1)
The Englishman has recently railed against the DeChambeau-ization of golf – the ever-increasing emphasis on distance. At No. 19 in the world, Fitzpatrick can compete on any course, but he's definitely better suited at shorter, more strategic tracks. He ranked second on Tour last season in SG: Putting and finished third at another Nicklaus course at the Memorial.

Tier 3 Values

Russell Henley - $8,100 (50-1)
Henley's price jumped $1000 since last week after a tie for third at the CJ Cup. It's a fair price and we're fine with that, though perhaps just a little less bullish. While Henley has been putting much better lately to complement his strong approach game, if this turns into a putting contest he may not be able to keep up. But that approach game is so strong, Henley is still good value at his higher price.

Adam Scott - $7,900 (40-1)
Scott has been idle since the U.S. Open. But he's shown he can step right in after layoffs much longer than this one. As a two-time winner at Riviera, including earlier this year, Scott plays well on the West Coast. As we've noted in the past, he's been putting better than the on-going narrative suggests.

Brian Harman - $7,300 (100-1)
Not everyone is well-suited for a birdie-fest, which this could turn out to be. But Harman finished top-15 at two recent birdie-fests in the Shriners two weeks ago and the Northern Trust at the start of the playoffs. He's also played well recently on tougher tracks to climb back inside the top-100 OWGR. Harman ranked 42nd last season in birdie or better.

Long-Shot Values

Brendon Todd - $7,000 (80-1)
Todd has not been as consistent as he was earlier in the year. But the drop-off has not been stark, either. He was outside the top-50 at the CJ Cup, but before that was top-25 at the U.S. Open. Todd continues to putt as well as ever, giving him a good shot to make a dent this week. His odds on golfodds.com, in relation to his DK price, indicate he could be underpriced.

Matt Kuchar - $6,800 (100-1)
Kuchar got in only after Dustin Johnson pulled out. He did not have a great season in 2019-20, didn't contend often, but this price reduction seems a bit much. After all, he did have top-25s in nearly half of his 16 starts (seven). Despite being on the other side of 40, the 29th-ranked Kuchar still putted great last season – ranked sixth – so this has the potential to be a real value pick.

Alex Noren - $6,800 (150-1)
Noren cratered last week by finishing 76th in the 78-man CJ Cup. Before that he had been on a roll with top-25s in five of his past six starts, including both the PGA and U.S. Open. Noren has a strong short game, and the shorter course should help his long game. He ranked 52nd last season in birdie or better.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.
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