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PGA Tour - Golf: ZOZO Championship preview

The PGA Tour heads to Narashino Country Club, Japan this week for the fourth edition of the ZOZO Championship and there is a top-class field ready to do battle.

After victories for American pair Tiger Woods (2019) and Patrick Cantlay (2020), Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama delighted the home crowd to claim the spoils by five strokes last year.

The 2021 Masters champion is 12/1 to become the first player to successfully defend the title, while Xander Schauffele is 15/2 and last week's Shriners Children's Open winner, Tom Kim, is priced at 14/1.

A select field of 78 will be vying for glory this week and you can follow the action on bet365's Live Golf Tracker.

What

The ZOZO Championship

Where

Narashino Country Club, Japan

When

Thursday 13th October - Sunday 16th October

How to watch

Sky Sports Golf & bet365's Live Golf Tracker

Odds

Xander Schauffele 15/2, Sungjae Im 11/1, Hideki Matsuyama 12/1, Collin Morikawa 14/1, Tom Kim 14/1

Course knowledge to prove beneficial

Narashino Country Club is a tough course to conquer and it's worth noting last year's champion, Matsuyama, was second in the 2019 edition before then going one better.

Having come so close to lifting the trophy and learning the best way to get around the course, the Japanese definitely used that previous experience to claim the spoils two years later.

Course debutants this week may find life difficult to begin with and it will be interesting to see how any newbies get on. Having a caddie on the bag who knows his way around could be very important.

It's also worth noting that Matsuyama ranked first in greens in regulation on way to his five-shot triumph, while he was also second in scrambling, so the short-game better be on point throughout.

The ZOZO Championship course details

Narashino Country Club will be hosting The ZOZO Championship for the third time this week, having seen Woods claim the inaugural edition in 2019 before Matsuyama lifted the trophy last year.

Located in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture, the course is a par-70 that measures 7,079 yards - 38 yards longer than last time after extensions to the par-three fifth and par-four 10th - with five par-threes, 10 par-fours and three par-fives.

The 1968 Japan PGA Championship was held at this course, as was the 1972 Japan Airlines Open and the 1977 Japan Open Golf Championship, which was won by Seve Ballesteros.

Narashino, which was also home of the Suntory Open on the Japan Golf Tour from 1974-1997, is a two-green course, meaning there are two greens for all 18 holes.

There are some long par-four holes to negotiate, with three measuring 490 yards-plus, while the par-five 14th played as the hardest hole in 2021 with scores averaging 0.003 over par.

That made it the third-hardest par-five on the 2021/22 PGA Tour season behind the 18th at TPC Twin Cities and the 15th at the Nicklaus Tournament Course.

The ZOZO Championship previous winners taking part

Hideki Matusyama

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Three to follow

Corey Conners

Going on the premise that course knowledge could give an advantage this week, there could be some substance in backing Corey Conners at 28/1 to claim the spoils.

The Canadian was tied-sixth on his tournament debut in 2019 and he returns to the course this year refreshed and ready to go, having not featured since the Presidents Cup defeat to the USA.

Conners was superb in greens in regulation last season, only finding Scottie Scheffler better than him in this department, and he hit 26 of 36 greens on his only PGA Tour outing this season.

An accurate type, the 30-year-old will be looking forward to his return to Japan and it would be no surprise to see his name towards the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

Mackenzie Hughes

Another Canadian to watch out for this week is Mackenzie Hughes, who ended his long wait for a second PGA Tour title at the Sanderson Farms Championship at the start of October and is 70/1 to triumph again.

The 31-year-old has made the perfect start to this campaign and he remains one of the strongest putters on Tour, as he ranks 18th in strokes gained: putting at this early stage.

Hughes also has course form, having finished fourth on debut last year, and there is a good chance he will improve on that showing as he tees it up for the first time since that Sanderson victory.

Luke List

Rounding off our three to follow is 110/1 Luke List, who was tied-seventh here on debut last year and really seemed to get to grips with the course when carding a 67 for his final round.

The American didn't kick on as expected from his PGA Tour breakthrough at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, but he will be hoping a return to Japan can spark him into life and give him a shot at a second win on the US circuit.

List was 13th in greens in regulation last season and although the results don't make for impressive reading in this campaign, he is still averaging over 70 percent in GIR.

The 37-year-old is one of the longest on Tour, he ranks 17th in driving distance, so if he can get the irons going this week there is a chance he can contend.

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