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ZOZO: A creative way to back Xander this week

Xander Schauffele

Xander Schauffele

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The PGA Tour heads to Japan for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP is hosted at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club. The 7,079-yard par 70 course is an image of perfection. Designed by Shinya Fukita, this championship course is one to marvel at. The course features three par 5s and five par 3s. It has some uniqueness to it; there’s a good mixture of long and short par 4s. Only two of the three par 5s will be reached in two by most, and all the par 3s are under 200 yards.

Narashino is best attacked by golfers who are long and accurate off the tee, hit greens in regulation, and can roll the rock with the flat stick. Courses like Kasumigaseki Country Club and TPC River Highland are good course comps.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama returns to defend his title, and BetMGM Sportsbooks has him priced at +1400. Matsuyama is always a safe bet when finding someone to back this week. There are quite a few golfers I like this week. I expect the winner to come from a group closer to the top. That said, yes, I am backing the odds on favorite Xander Schauffele.

Xander Schauffele to win + Borussia Dortmund ML over Sevilla (+1273)

Whenever I break down a tournament, I close my eyes and pray that the number one golfer in my primary model is not the lowest odds on the board. Unfortunately, this week, the number one golfer in my model is Schauffele, and he’s the lowest odds on the board. That’s not stopping me from betting on him this week. When I think about the skillset necessary to win this tournament, it makes sense why Schauffele is such a short price.

The problem I run into with this event is that I like a lot of golfers. If I am betting on five golfers, I only win four units if the +800 is one of the winners. That leads me to bet on Schauffele in a parlay with Borussia Dortmund ML in their Champions League tie with Sevilla for more desirable odds.

Why Dortmund will win:

I had been mulling over how I would attack Sevilla this week. I considered backing Dortmund’s team total at one point, but after a great chat with my buddy Burroaks77 and reading his article breaking down this game, I am all over Dortmund to beat Sevilla. You can find his article here.

Sevilla have a tall task this week as they head to Signal Iduna Park to take on an in-form Dortmund side. Dortmund, since last season, are 16-1-5 at home domestically and seem to be finding their stride after some early adversity. Dortmund have an xG of 1.7 and xGA of 1.17 at home defensively. They should do enough to keep a sliding Sevilla out and pick up the win.

Why Xander Schauffele will win:

The course comps I mentioned previously are two places where Schauffele has won. The Olympic and Travelers champion is a perfect fit for any course. He’s long enough off the tee to be deadly and accurate, and when he misses the fairway, it isn’t by much. He gains a ton of strokes on approach and excels at par 3s more than most in the world. To top it off, he’s a great putter. Backing Schauffele at a course that requires great accuracy both off the tee and on approach is a no-brainer. Now we have a price I can stomach; I can bet him with confidence.

Tom Kim to win +1400

I think it’s time for us to realize Kim is the real deal and can be world no. 1. He’s still so young, yet he plays a mean game with confidence and poise on the course. His run reminds me of what Jordan Spieth went on in 2015. Kim is dangerous because he’s accurate off the tee and can get hot off the tee. He’s third on my primary model behind Schauffele and Sungjae Im. He’s top five in Strokes Gained: Approach, driving accuracy, SG: Par 3 and par 4, scoring from 350-400. Since the US Open, Kim has only lost strokes in one event and has picked up two wins. If he doesn’t celebrate too hard from last week’s win, he should be in for a big week.

Tommy Fleetwood to win +2800

This may be the second time I’ve bet Fleetwood outright. I wasn’t all that surprised to find he was inside the top five in my primary model. He excelled here last year with a T7. His game fits here much like Schauffele’s and Kim’s. He’s accurate off the tee and an excellent putter. He’s still looking for his first PGA Tour win, but now it seems like a good spot for Fleetwood. He went through a few rough tournaments. He then had back-to-back T4 finishes at the Scottish Open and the Open Championship. Returning to where he’s had success should provide him some comfort. He’s certainly a play in the placement market as well.

Si Woo Kim to win +2800

There was a time when backing Kim was nearly impossible. He is such a great ball striker. He gains a ton of strokes on approach, is accurate off the tee, and hits a ton of greens in regulation. His biggest problem was putting. His putting was so bad that he was impossible to bet on. He had a few stints of very terrible putting tournaments; losing -5.7 strokes putting at the PGA Championship wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg. He lost -5.1 strokes putting at St. Jude and then another -12.3 strokes at the BMW Championship. His move to the broomstick putting has shown improvements. At Shriners, he looked much more confident putting. He gained +2.3 strokes putting and now has given me the confidence to bet him.