2022 ZOZO Championship Fantasy Golf Power Rankings and Picks
Across the Pacific the traveling circus roams this week to the ZoZo Championship, a treat for golf fans in Japan and an attractive late-night viewing option for the night owls back in the States.
There’s a bundle of cash on the table in the 78-man, no-cut Zozo Championship, being held for the third time at Accordia Golf Narashino. As in $11 million with $1.9 to the winner.
The course is a tree-lined 7,079-yard par 70 and quietly one of the best layouts on the PGA Tour schedule. There are massive par 4s that require precise mid-to-long irons, short par 4s where wedges must be dialed and a mixture of medium to longish par 3s. The greens are slick and sloped so putting iron shots in the right place is required. In the past, players have mentioned the value of finding the fairway, not because the rough is especially penal, but because controlling line and distance into the smaller targets is easier from the shorter grass.
RELATED: Caddie Line homepage
The players are likely in for a variety of weather conditions as well with rain in the forecast, and the chance for a windy Thursday. Keep an eye on things to see if any advantages arise.
It’s a test made for ballstrikers, not demanding power necessarily but a sharp short game and disaster avoidance are two key components on the road to the trophy.
As an aside, a tip of the hat to Joe Skovron for helping Tom Kim to victory in Vegas last week and to Kim for giving the veteran caddie credit. Also to Golf Channel for letting us hear the fascinating player-caddie conversations. Viewers have been pining to listen in to these exchanges forever and it seems as if those pleas were heard. There are high quality men on bags around the world these days, helping their pros make sound decisions and leading them to victories.
ZOZO Championship Fantasy Golf Power Rankings
21. Sebastian Munoz – Took two weeks off after a strong showing at the Presidents Cup, opting to return on a course where he finished T-4 last year. Above average in avoiding bogeys on difficult courses because he’s a good driver and terrific around the greens.
20. Kurt Kitayama – Rough putting week (-3.6 shots) derailed his effort in Las Vegas but his Tee-to-Green play was strong yet again (+3.8 shots), buoyed by a sharp short game.
19. Keegan Bradley – Tied for seventh in last year’s Zozo and was 14th in 2020. Ranks 25th in the field in SG: Ballstriking over the last 36 rounds and among the leaders in avoiding bogeys and doubles.
18. Luke List – Mediocre to poor putters have found success at Accordia Golf Narashino and List just has to find a way to minimize the damage on the greens, ranking top 10 in the ballstriking categories and finishing T-7 here last year.
17. Mackenzie Hughes – Added distance off the tee, put on display his world-class short game and relentless heart in winning the Sanderson Farms two weeks ago. Gained 5.2 shots on approach in the victory. That’s the fourth-best effort of his career. Tied for fourth here last year.
16. Tom Hoge – Irons are dialed again, gaining more than 11 shots on approach in a pair of top 15s to start his path back to East Lake. Leads the field in proximity from 175-200 yards over the last 100 rounds.
15. Si Woo Kim – Putts his best on bentgrass and has gained more than eight shots on approach in his last three tournaments.
14. Matthew NeSmith – See no reason to stop riding the hot hand, assuming he didn’t lose his swing on the 13-hour flight to Japan. More than 13 shots gained on approach in consecutive top 10s and was in position for first Tour victory Sunday.
13. Cameron Davis – Best in the field Tee-to-Green on difficult courses and poor putting cost him last weekend in Vegas. Top 20 in SG: Approach and better than the field average in Sand Saves.
12. Corey Conners – Always pops on traditional tree-lined courses and is most comfortable on bentgrass greens. One of the two best drivers in the field and also third in SG: Approach. Tied for sixth in the 2020 Zozo.
11. Scott Stallings – Seems like another good course fit for the rejuvenated veteran. He’s landed in the top 15 in six of his last eight starts and relied on every area of his game at different points in the hot stretch.
ZOZO Championship Fantasy Golf Best Bets
10. Tommy Fleetwood – Driver is the only question mark, ranks in the top third of the field in every other significant metric, avoiding bogeys and scrambling at an elite rate.
9. Viktor Hovland – The Norwegian Forest Cat prowls in the fall on courses outside the United States. And he’s always a threat when ballstriking is rewarded, ranking 11th in that metric, top 20 in Good Drives Gained and SG: OTT on difficult driving courses. Worth pointing out it’s Ryder Cup points season also.
8. Kevin Streelman – Recorded consecutive top 25s behind excellent driving and short game. Just needs a strong week with his irons to crack the leaderboard. Ranks seventh in bogey avoidance on difficult layouts.
7. Xander Schauffele – The Vegas favorite makes his first start since the Tour Championship. He won the Gold Medal in the Tokyo Olympics and possesses the best all-around skill set in golf.
6. Tom Kim – At this point, nothing he achieves will surprise me. Quadruple bogey on the first hole and win in a runaway victory? Sure. 72 holes bogey free to win again? Why not? What’s next? The legend grows each week.
5. Cameron Young – He’s going to win in 2022-23. At his current prices, you could bet on him every week and probably come out ahead. He likes these traditional, parkland layouts. Nobody hits a more impressive tee shot.
4. Sungjae Im – Might as well put him down for a top-10 finish every week. Stats are impressive. Leads the field in SG: Ballstriking, avoids bogeys in difficult conditions, gained 10.2 shots on bentgrass in his last 16 rounds on the surface.
3. Hideki Matsuyama – Battled nagging injuries in recent months but the defending champion will give his best effort in front of the adoring home fans. Ranks top 10 in Ballstriking, Approach and Tee-to-Green (difficult) on a Strokes Gained basis.
2. Mito Pereira – Keeps inching closer to his first victory. Putts his best on bentgrass and a plodding, demanding Tee-to-Green test such as this will suit his eye. Led the field in Vegas, gaining 9.1 shots on approach.
1. Collin Morikawa – Gonna hope he’s found something to believe in on the greens after he lost 9.6 shots putting in the final two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Focusing instead on how he gained shots Off the Tee and on Approach in his last four starts. Time for Morikawa to win again.
ZOZO Championship Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Hayden Buckley, Kazuki Higa, Lee Hodges, Ryo Hisatune, John Huh, Russell Knox, Adam Long, Keita Nakajima, C.T. Pan, Sam Ryder.