Picks and tips for the Zozo Championship

Will Gray
·6 min read

Another week, another (relocated) limited-field event on the PGA Tour.

After the CJ Cup shifted from South Korea to Las Vegas, the Zozo Championship is next on the docket among no-cut tournaments that typically take place in Asia. But this week the site is Southern California, not Japan, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sherwood Country Club is likely familiar to Tour fans as the longtime host of Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge, and the site of five of his victories in that event. He's again in the limelight this week as he returns to defend the title he won a year ago, tying Sam Snead for the Tour's all-time wins record. But this is expected to be Woods' lone start between the U.S. Open and the Masters, and his odds reflect a rather stagnant summer: he's listed in the middle of the pack at +3000 despite his history on this course.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson out for the second straight week while recovering from COVID-19, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele (both +1000) share co-favorite honors. Here's a look at some players and bets to consider as the Tour wraps up a three-week stint out west:

To Win (odds via PointsBet Sportsbook)

Collin Morikawa (+1800): Not all missed cuts are created equal. Morikawa clearly struggled at Winged Foot, but he played markedly better at TPC Summerlin, where he still sat out the weekend despite shooting 6 under for 36 holes. The trend improved further last week at Shadow Creek, where he finished T-12 and was third in Strokes Gained: Approach for the week. Morikawa is a Los Angeles native and has spoken about the added emphasis he places on tournaments in his home state. Look no further than the PGA Championship, where he showed that his accurate iron play can put him ahead against the world's best. Morikawa won earlier this year at Muirfield Village, a course that Data Golf cites as having strong correlation to Sherwood, and his price doesn't seem to fully account for his recent uptick in play.

Patrick Cantlay (+2900): Another Cali guy with a recent win at Jack's Place. Cantlay won the Memorial last year, and while he has been rather quiet since June he did nearly pick off another win at the Shriners last week. Cantlay closed with a final-round 67 at Shadow Creek, including seven birdies, and while he battled a balky putter he finished the week seventh in SG: Off-the-Tee. Cantlay attended UCLA and has spent plenty of time around Sherwood. Ranked inside the top 10 in the world only a few weeks ago, he's now saddled with an eye-catching price on a course that could suit his style of play.

Russell Henley (+4000): Ride the hot hand. Henley coughed up a three-shot lead during the final round in Las Vegas, but a T-3 finish was still his third top-10 result in his last five starts. During that stretch, which dates back to the PGA Championship, he hasn't finished worse than T-27. I considered including Henley for another top-10 finish at +350, a play that certainly has merit, but I kept coming back to this enticing combo from last week's event: second in SG: Putting, sixth in SG: OTT. A similar performance this week should put Henley right back in the mix for his first Tour win since 2017.

Top-10 Finishes (odds via PointsBet)

Harris English (+290): English stumbled to an opening 75 last week in Sin City, but still battled back to snag a top-10 finish. It's a performance that's indicative of his recent, steady return, as the veteran got back to the Tour Championship last month and hasn't exactly slowed down. English was a runner-up in the playoffs, finished fourth at Winged Foot and now heads to Sherwood with a little bit of momentum after closing with three straight rounds in the 60s at Shadow Creek. The seven-year victory drought continues, but he has finished inside the top 20 in 15 of 23 starts since the beginning of last season.

Kevin Streelman (+800): Some of these mid-range prices on top-10 finishes are all too appealing, since you're basically talking about beating 68 other guys in a no-cut event. But while it's hard to pass on some notable names at big numbers, (looking at you, +700 Jordan Spieth) I decided to settle on Streelman at +800. Like Morikawa, he shot 6 under en route to a Shriners missed cut and was T-3 at the Safeway the last time the Tour set up shop in California. Streelman has had significant success at Muirfield Village and also won at Innisbrook, another course with strong correlation to Sherwood. While he only has two career wins, and none since 2014, he's racked up a total of 45 top-10 finishes - nearly a 13 percent top-10 conversion rate for his career. He's more often in the mix than you might expect, and coming off a respectable T-21 showing at Shadow Creek you could snag a hefty payday if he once again works his way onto the first page of the leaderboard.

Mackenzie Hughes (+1000): As with the selection below, this pick is based on the premise that one poor week is overly inflating the price. Yes, Hughes struggled mightily last week at Shadow Creek, finishing T-65 out of 78 players and closing with a 77. But before that, the Canadian had been playing pretty well! Hughes had three top-10 finishes in his last four starts prior to last week, including the BMW Championship and a third-place showing in Punta Cana. Hughes may seem unlikely to win this week against a stacked field, but his late-season form was still good enough to earn him a spot in the Tour Championship last month and he had put up solid SG numbers until last week's regression. With a $10 bet netting $100 if he contends, the price seems well worth the risk.

Prop Bet (odds via PointsBet)

Paul Casey (+450) to win Group E

This is an opportunity to grab some value in a group where Tiger Woods (+250) will have the odds skewed in his favor. Also among this group are Rickie Fowler (+300), Phil Mickelson (+350) and Justin Rose (+500). Fowler and Rose haven't been heard from in weeks, while Mickelson will have another chance to see if his PGA Tour Champions dominance can translate into some viable results on the main circuit. Woods' history at Sherwood is well-documented, but so is the fact that he has been largely listless since the break and hasn't played since an underwhelming performance at Winged Foot.

That leaves Casey, who like Hughes is looking to shake off a poor showing last week at Shadow Creek. But the Englishman is one of only a few players in this week's field who has some experience at Sherwood from the old Hero days, and it's a course where he has had some success. Throw in his runner-up performance at the PGA in August and top-20s at both the BMW and U.S. Open against strong fields and there's ample reason to take him at a lofty price to win a five-man battle where no other option is especially jumping off the page.

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