ZOZO Championship - Hideki Matsuyama

ZOZO Championship

BET | Matthew Fitzpatrick (Outright-EW) – 33/1 with Bet365

After a visit to South Korea for the CJ Cup last week, this week the PGA Tour’s Zozo Championship takes place in Japan at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club.

With this being the first ever PGA Tour event to take in Japan, it is hard to predict who is well suited or will even like this course.

However, a star-studded field in Japan means it represents an opportunity for somebody to earn some bragging rights with a victory, and a heavy prize fee as well at almost $2 million.

With the field consisting of the top 60 available PGA Tour players from the previous season’s FedEx Cup standings, it means Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and many others are battling it out for victory this week.

Hideki Matsuyama – First round leader – 22/1

Unsurprisingly, Thomas leads the way in the betting market at around 7/1 after his win last week, with Mcilroy just behind.

But, even though there are a number of high profile names in this week’s field, Matthew Fitzpatrick (33/1) is my first pick for the Zozo Championship.

Unphased by the big occasion, Fitzpatrick has shown some fantastic form in 2019 despite being unable to finish off the job.

T21 at the Masters, T12 at the US Open, T20 at The Open, T4 at the Bridgestone Invitational and solo second place finishes at the BMW International Open, Scandinavian Masters and the Italian Open makes his price this week too hard to ignore.

Most importantly heading into this event with a number of headline players, the world number 33 does not look out of place on the PGA Tour.

Following in the footsteps of some Englishman before him such as Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose, it only seems a matter of time before Fitzpatrick hits the big time and secures a PGA Tour victory, why not this week?

Although his near misses in recent weeks are likely to put some people off, with Fitzpatrick’s demeanour and determination, it seems only more likely to spur him on to victory.

With the talk of being spurred onto victory, that brings me to my second bet for the Zozo Championship, which is Matsuyama to be first round leader (22/1) who’s playing in his home country this week and is likely to generate big crowds for his groupings.

Despite a missed cut in his first event at the Safeway Open, Matsuyama has made a fairly strong start to the 2019/20 PGA Tour season. Finishing T16 at the Shriners before following that up with a T3 at last week’s CJ Cup, the world number 27 seems to be finding his feet more quickly this year, after a slightly underwhelming 2018/19 season on tour.

The 27-year-old has set such high expectations with a flurry of top 10 finishes in majors in years gone by, but has really struggled to propel himself to the top of the game.

With a scintillating final round 61 at the Bridgestone in 2017 to secure a victory in one of the best fields in golf, everyone would have laughed if you were to suggest between then and now Matsuyama wouldn’t win a single event, but unfortunately for him that’s exactly what’s happened.

Things have been looking up though, since towards the end of the 2019 season. In the final two play-off events, Matsuyama finished in solo third and T9 and has continued some of that form into the new season.

Playing in Japan in front of a home crowd, there is no better place for Matsuyama to start firing again and continue his early season form.

Matsuyama’s first round scoring average for 2019 was 69.35 and had him ranked 13th on tour. That, coupled with his final round 65 last week and some early competitive golf in the skins game on Monday, suggests he is good value to go out and shoot a low score on Thursday in Japan.

The Portugal Masters

BET | Matt Wallace (Outright) – 10/1 with Bet365

Meanwhile, the European Tour this week take a visit to the Algarve for the Portugal Masters.

Off the back of a gruelling, wet, cold and tricky Open de France, this event will be a welcomed relief for those who took part last week.

Since the birth of the Portugal Masters in 2007, only once has the winning score been higher than -15 and on seven out of 11 occasions -20 or lower has been the winning score in Portugal.

In the 2018 Portugal Masters, Tom Lewis secured his second European title and second Portugal Masters victory with a score of -22, beating runners up Lucas Herbert and Eddie Pepperell by a three-stroke margin.

The level of scoring last year exceeded even the typical birdie fest that is the Portugal Masters, with Oliver Fisher posting a 59 on the second day of the event to record the first sub-60 round in European Tour history, even lipping out for a 58 on the final hole.

And with this year’s event taking place at the same course as last year, Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, there is no reason not to expect some very low scoring again.

Therefore with low scoring expected, a high birdie average is a useful statistic heading into this event.

Leading the betting is Matt Wallace at 9/1, and although his price is short, given his current form the Englishman is seemingly the man to beat in Portugal.

BET | Sam Horsfield (Outright/EW) – 28/1 with Bet365

His form reads: 3, T41, T15, T7 since a missed cut at the Omega European Masters, suggesting he is beginning to re-find some consistency that was clear in his game in 2018 when he won three times.

To add to that, in the birdie average statistic Wallace ranked 13th in 2019 on the European Tour, the third highest of anyone in this field. This shows he is more than capable of shooting the low score that is necessary to win this event, combined with the fact that he has won in Portugal before (2017 Open de Portugal).

Sam Horsfield (28/1) is another man who looks in good shape to contend at this week’s Portugal Masters.

He’s shown some consistency, making the cut in his last nine events, with his form being rounded off with a very respectable T14 in last week’s Open de France.

And there are another two key factors why he looks certain to challenge this week.

Firstly, Horsfield, like Wallace, finished high in the birdie average statistic in 2019, finishing third only behind McIlroy and Jon Rahm, which is very impressive. But also, the Englishman has looked very strong in the particularly weaker European Tour fields.

At the D+D Real Czech Masters and the Scandinavian Masters, Horsfield secured a T3 and T10 where there were just a selection of players inside the world’s top 100, and similarly last week at the Open de France where there was not a single player in the top 50 in the event he was close to the top 10.

Other honourable mentions go to George Coetzee (25/1) and Matthew Southgate (40/1) who also look capable of clinching the trophy at the end of the week when looking at their form and ability to make lots of birdies.

But ultimately, Wallace looks almost certain to make a run at the Portugal Masters with it being a good opportunity for him to boost his confidence and help him make a run at the Race to Dubai which comes to a close in a month’s time, while Horsfield at 28/1 looks a good price in the type of field in which he has excelled in before.

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