The second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asia Swing tees off on Thursday (Wednesday evening for those of you in the U.S.) with the inaugural ZOZO Championship in Japan.
The stacked field includes Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Patrick Reed and more.
So which players should you be watching closely this week in Japan?
To help answer that question, we reached out to three experts – the people who walk alongside the players inside the ropes each week – the caddies.
Each caddie – anonymously – provided a pick to win, a darkhorse pick (darkhorses must be outside the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking) and a player to finish inside the top 10.
Winning Pick: Jason Day
Why: Gotta go with the man in the field who has won most recently in Japan. Yep, that’s Jason Day. You never know when his next resurgence is coming so I’m taking his victory in the Skins Challenge over Tiger, Hideki, and Rory as a sign. Can’t help but bring some confidence from being the guy who can focus on golf AND line his pockets with cash at the same time.
Darkhorse Pick: Mikumu Horikawa
Why: All summer we’ve been hearing about Collin Morikawa and how great of a ball striker he is. Any other week, yeah, good call. This week he’s taking a backseat to Mikumu Horikawa. A T2 at the Japan Open just last week vaulted him from 200th to 144th in the world. He’s one of the darkest horses you’ll see in this feature but he’s my guy this week.
Top-10 finisher: Ryan Moore
Why: I think Ryan Moore still has a lot of gas left in the tank and his last two starts are proof of that. T13 in Vegas followed by T8 last week at the CJ Cup shows me he’s got a pretty good feel for where the ball’s going. The five par 3s this week will play into a ball strikers’ hands. Historically, he’s been one of the straighter hitters both off the tee and in the fairways, so I’m coupling that with his current form and going with RyMo here.
Winning Pick: Xander Schauffele
Why: He’s well-rested and making his first appearance of the year. When is he not a good pick? Dude’s got no weaknesses in his game. X-man gets it done. We’re using made up nicknames on here I gather?
Darkhorse Pick: Andrew Putnam
Why: Putty has played well overseas the past two seasons. His game travels well and I hear he picks up some extra yards with sushi two or more times per week, insider special.
Top-10 finisher: Kevin Na
Why: In good form, the Naster will be walking them in from the tee box. The lack of good Za (you know, slang for “pizza”) in Japan could pose a problem for his caddie’s focus, but that’s why he’s my top 10 and not winner.
Winning Pick: Rory McIlroy
Why: He will have a little extra motivation from BK to win the Japanese major.
Darkhorse Pick: Shugo Imahira
Why: Even though the Shugster missed the cut in all four majors this year, I feel that experience has only made him stronger and ready to shine soon. So why not this week with a home game?
Top-10 finisher: Adam Hadwin
Why: I don’t know anything about this course but Adam Hadwin has been playing great this year with top-4 finishes in each of his first two starts.