Tiger Woods of the United States watches his tee shot on the 10th hole during the pro-am event of he Zozo Championship PGA Tour at Accordia Golf Narashino C.C. in Inzai, east of Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.
Tiger Woods of the United States watches his tee shot on the 10th hole during the pro-am event of he Zozo Championship PGA Tour at Accordia Golf Narashino C.C. in Inzai, east of Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.|Lee Jin-man | Associated Press

Golf: Kern picks the Zozo Championship at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club where Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be featured

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

Last week two of our picks, Hideki Matsuyama (at 16-1) and Cameron Smith (30), tied for third at the CJ Cup in Korea, five behind co-favorite Justin Thomas. So we didn’t win, but we had something to cheer for. I hope you at least maybe had Smith just to finish in the top 5 or 10. That’s usually the good play if you take someone with higher odds.

Now it’s on to the inaugural Zozo Championship, at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan. It’s the first PGA Tour event being held in that country, on a course that’s tight and features smaller greens in relation to what these guys often see most weeks.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be making their 2019-20 debuts, which is never a bad thing. This is a limited field of 78, for the second straight week.

Thomas, as he should be, is the fave at 7-1. McIlroy, who of course won the Tour Championship the last time we really saw him in August, is 8-1.

Matsuyama is 16-1, for the second straight week. He just doesn’t seem to win very often. Xander Schauffele is 20-1, Paul Casey 22-1. Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, who played well last week in his first start of the season, Tommy Fleetwood, who’s had seven top 10s this year, and Viktor Hoyland are all 25-1.

Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland and Tony FInau are 28-1. Collin Morikawa, Jason Day and Matthew Fitzpatrick check in at 33-1. Fitzpatrick has four runner-ups this year, and three top 10s in his last six starts. Day, by the way, is ranked 28th in the world, which makes him the third-highest from Australia behind Scott and Marc Leischman. But he did win last week’s Skins Game in Japan that Woods played in.

Oops, almost forgot. Woods and Sungjae Im are also 33-1.

Byeong Hun-An, who was sixth last week and nearly won a few weeks ago, is 40-1. So is Joaquin Niemann, who has won last month (when we had him at 33-1), Louis Oosthuizen, Leischman and Rafa Cabrera-Bello. Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia are 50-1.

So which way to go? I wouldn’t play Tiger, just because. But you could always throw a couple of bucks on him. Again, just because. You’re not going to get him at this number too many times. Of course he’s 33 for a reason.

I’m tempted to take Rory, but you know how I feel about chalk. I’ll take it when I feel strongly about it, but otherwise I’m mostly looking for bigger payouts. Nothing wrong with that, as long as some of them actually cash.

I could make a case for a bunch of folks, but I can’t pick everybody, right?

Hideki Matsuyama (16-1)

Why not? I had him last week, and he almost got it done. His problem is he just doesn’t win enough, for a player of his ability. But you can say that about too many guys. It is what it is. I’ll give him another shot, and probably regret it. That’s the way this stuff can work. I hope playing in his homeland isn’t too much whatever.

Jordan Spieth (25-1)

Probably still too early, but I like the way he came back last week. The problem this week could be the tightness of the layout. But his putter seems to be working again, and that’s always been huge for him. I might take him to just finish in the top 5 as well.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (33-1)

Has been pretty consistent. Again, just needs to finish something off.

Byeong Hun-An (40-1)

Ditto. I know this is a fourth pick, but three are at fairly high odds so what the heck. I’m allowed. You don’t have to put a lot on all of them, just enough to make it worth your while if they come through.

As a bonus, I will throw this one out:

Shugo Imahira, whom I admittedly know little about, is one of the top golfers on the Japanese Tour. He’s won three times in the last three years, and he’s going off at 80-1. As I said with Tiger, but for different reasons, you might want to throw a little something on him just in case. Because we really never do know. We can only try.


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