OKBET Golf Betting Tips | Ben Coley’s ZOZO Championship Preview and Best Bets

OKBET Golf Betting Tips Ben Coley's ZOZO Championship Preview and Best Bets

Ben Coley won last year’s ZOZO Championship and is following in his footsteps when the PGA Tour returns to Japan.

Golf betting tips: ZOZO Championship

Hideki Matsuyama at 14/1 for 4 points in the ZOZO Championship (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6).

Keegan Bradley is 1.5 points e.w. at 33/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7).

Sebastian Munoz is 1.5 points e.w. at 45/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6).

Kurt Kitayama 1 point e.w. at 66/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

There were genuine concerns before to last year’s ZOZO Championship that it would not be able to produce as it did pre-pandemic, on its first and only trip to Japan. Back then, Rory McIlroy, HIDEKI MATSUYAMA, Jason Day, and Tiger Woods kicked off the week with a skins game, and Woods ended it with a stunning triumph, his 82nd on the PGA Tour, tying Sam Snead’s record.

To close things out, Matsuyama finished second, with McIlroy third. Two years later, with Woods unable to compete and McIlroy missing, it was up to Matsuyama and two Japanese-born players, Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa, to save the tournament. Matsuyama went above and above.

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Six months after creating Masters history, he started with a round of 64, seized the lead after round two, and finally extended out to win by five with a closing eagle.

Filling Woods’ shoes is an impossible challenge, unless you’re Hideki Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champion, back home in Japan, and you do what he did. It was a fantastic performance, the kind he hadn’t always felt capable of despite his incredible talents, and it echoed Adam Scott’s when he returned his Green Jacket to Australia in 2013.

It almost feels silly to ask for a repetition, and this field is slightly stronger at the front end owing to Sungjae Im and Tom Kim, the latter coming off his second win in less than two months and now firmly established as an elite player at the age of 20. Despite a small field and no cut, Cameron Young and Viktor Hovland, as well as the latter’s Ryder Cup colleagues Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, make this one of the stronger end-of-year events.

But Matsuyama is capable, and given how he won here last year, I think he’s worth a bet at 12/1 or higher. Remember, he didn’t simply win by five points; the two players tied for second were the only ones to come within eight points of him. Matsuyama outperformed the rest of the field by more than two strokes per day, and only a spectacular Woods performance has been too much for him in these two ZOZO renewals.

His form coming in last year was unspectacular, and he’s skipped the Shriners this time, which means he’ll be fresher than those who arrive off that plane, like Im, Kim, Si-Woo Kim, Mito Pereira, Cam Davis, Maverick McNealy, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and Tom Hoge.

I also thought he performed well in the Presidents Cup, despite facing the two top US pairs in three of his matches and being let down by a partner more than occasions. His thrilling half against Sam Burns indicated his game was in fantastic shape – theirs was one of the best singles matches – and the fact that he was able to participate in every practice says we can also rely on his fitness.

Narashino Country Club is self-evidently suited, but it’s worth explaining why: compact, sloping greens necessitate great approach play, and there’s some sense to comparisons with Augusta, given the rough isn’t thick, the courses are old-fashioned, and the second shot counts more than any other. So far, both victors are Masters and Firestone champions, and the long par-fours here are comparable to the latter’s South Course.

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Matsuyama won at another tree-lined course in January, and now that he’s proven he’s capable of shouldering the load placed on him back home in Japan, I expect him to play well almost every time he comes here. Conditions and motivation are important factors in this sport, and with his title on the line, Matsuyama deserves to be favored.

Morikawa is yet to win in 2022, which will irritate the American, who is obsessed with winning above all else. He’s performed admirably on both of his visits to Japan, finishing fifth in the Dunlop Phoenix and just losing out on a medal behind Schauffele in Tokyo last summer, and would be clearly second best among the major names. I did contemplate sharing the stakes between the two.

Instead, I’ll go with another Japanese-born player, KURT KITAYAMA.

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It’s been a fantastic year for the American, who threatened to win several times during his rookie PGA Tour season and demonstrated his adaptability by coming third in the problematic Honda Classic and second in the low-scoring Mexico Open before finishing runner-up again in Scotland.

He’s also demonstrated adaptability in his brief career, battling severe winds in Oman and playing out in the Far East before establishing himself on the DP World Tour, winning in Malaysia on his maiden Asian Development Tour outing.

Kitayama finished second in Thailand and competed all week in Japan in 2016, ending fourth, so I’m not surprised he’s jumped at the chance to return here for the ZOZO Championship.

We’ll have to take our chances on the course, but he’s a big-hitter who ranked third in strokes-gained off-the-tee in Italy two starts ago, and his quality around-the-green game should be a huge help: that’s something Matsuyama used, as did Woods in 2019, and these small, sloping greens will make players wonder if they missed them.

Kitayama’s approach play has also improved recently, particularly in Rome, but also last week, when he struggled with the putter. Missing the cut in Las Vegas, on the other hand, may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, and it was noticeable how poorly most of last year’s candidates had performed in the extremely different conditions of the desert over the previous fortnight.

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Kitayama, ranked 55th in the Official World Golf Rankings, is within striking distance of the majors next year, and with a Japanese mother, he’ll be motivated to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and cap off what’s been a fantastic year.

Back at the top of the betting, there are a few realistic possibilities, but I’m hesitant to back those who performed well in Las Vegas over the weekend, such as Pereira and Si-Woo Kim.

Some of their Presidents Cup teammates are more tempting, as this is a terrific course for Corey Conners to come out and prove a point after a disastrous week in Charlotte, but SEBASTIAN MUNOZ is favoured.

Munoz finished fourth here last year after finishing T3 in his Olympic debut in Japan, when he nearly missed out on a medal after that dramatic play-off won by CT Pan.

Munoz’s efforts here make sense when you look at his resume, which includes finishes of third and seventh at the Greenbrier (one behind Schauffele, who won gold in Tokyo), fourth at the John Deere Classic, third at Colonial, and seventh at East Lake, as well as his sole PGA Tour victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship.

His profile is one of a golfer who excels on tree-lined, classic courses, as he demonstrated while striping it at Riviera earlier this year, so perhaps we shouldn’t have been startled by his performance at Quail Hollow after all.

Beating world number one Scottie Scheffler may be a game-changer for him. Consider Scheffler’s actions following his Ryder Cup victory over Jon Rahm. Consider Cam Smith, who won his first PGA Tour event after defeating Justin Thomas in the 2019 Presidents Cup singles.

Munoz will almost not reach such heights, but the confidence he’ll have gained by playing so well for captain Trevor Immelman and his teammates will be huge, and look at how those guys have done since. They’ve come out and threatened almost to a man, as have numerous of those who were nearly passed over for selection.

Last year, Munoz arrived here after going MC-MC-MC-49 to begin the new season. This time, he’s coming off a career highlight, and with a solid track record in these late-season competitions, it wouldn’t be surprising if he doubled his tally in the coming weeks, highlighting the transforming consequences of such an accomplishment.

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I noted Pan’s Olympic medal there, and he made the shortlist after performing well in the 2019 ZOZO. This time last year, I was debating whether to put him up at 66/1 when that price began to fall, and he returns a 200/1 shot, one who arrived in Tokyo early and won’t be hampered by jet lag.

Add in the fact that his approach work last time out was excellent, and he’s one to keep an eye on, along with Aaron Rai, assuming the Englishman can overcome the flight from Nevada. He won at Fanling, a course that is similar in some respects, and the quality of his ball-striking qualifies him as a viable contender at a best of 100/1.

However, I believe the victor will come from the head of the pack and will be rounded out by KEEGAN BRADLEY, who will benefit from the rain-softened conditions.

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Bradley, another former Firestone champion, said he enjoyed the course when he started brightly here in 2019, probably paying the price for a weekend with Woods, and returned last year to finish sixth.

He mentioned last time at Sanderson Farms how much he prefers a tree-lined course, and before that, at the BMW Championship, how much he enjoys hitting driver as much as possible. With three par-fives and a lot of long par-fours, as well as the recent rain in Japan, it should be a valuable weapon this week.

Bradley began with a 64 in his final tournament of last season and followed that up with another on his return to start this one with a fifth-place result in Jackson, and as we saw with a run of top-10 finishes in the spring, he tends to hold onto his form when he finds it. Second place in the Wells Fargo came in wet conditions, as did last year’s runner-up finish at the Valspar on a course similar to this one, and we know where we stand with one of the best ball drivers in the world.

His CIMB Classic record (runner-up in 2017, sixth in 2016, and four hot starts in five) demonstrates how well he travels, as does his performance in the WGC-HSBC Champions, where he was sixth in 2018, led on debut, and played well in all but one of his six visits to China. Then there’s the fact that bentgrass is his favored putting surface, which helps to alleviate concerns about the fact that it was his putter that propelled him to a top-five finish in Mississippi.

Bradley is one excellent performance away from making his first Masters appearance since 2019, and having delivered on both previous appearances here, despite his recent form being subpar, I expect him to be in the mix.

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