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ZOZO Championship preview - Scott withdraws with COVID-19

Oct 22, 2020

This week's PGA Tour golfing action should have us spinning the globe and placing a finger on Japan...
Instead we're looking at rather more familiar territory on the West coast of America.
Travel restrictions that put paid to the CJ Cup in Korea (played last week in Las Vegas) have caused the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP to also move, temporarily, to California.
Strangely enough, if anything, this has helped boost the field. And with next month's re-scheduled US MASTERS just a couple of weeks away, it will be a good workout for the players ahead of a trip to Augusta National.
With the announcement that Australia’s Adam Scott has tested positive to COVID-19 forcing his late withdrawal, Australia’s representatives number four -  Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Jason Day and Brad Kennedy.
Here's a full preview of the action in the "Golden State"...

The Tournament
Well, we should be in Japan this week. But we're not, we're in Southern California. This is, or was meant to be, for the second instalment of a co-sanctioned event between US golf and the Japanese "J-Tour". And when the world gets back to normal, no doubt the players will return to the Far East and the event will continue as intended - a mix of the world's best players, plus some local talent, in a small-field, money-laden tournament. Instead we have a mix of the world's finest (we still have that), and slightly less global talent. But regardless, this event remains one of significant interest, more so with a Major looking on the horizon next month.

The Course
We're at the Sherwood Country Club. This is a par 72, spread over 7,006 yards - with five par 5's and five par 3's. It's a Jack Nicklaus design, and was the venue for the Tiger Woods sponsored Hero World Challenge from 2000 through to 2013. It has also hosted the Shark Shootout for a decade back in the 1990's. Nicklaus completed the course in the late 1980's, with an upgrade as recently as 2016. Situated in a river valley, with high surrounding hills, it's a mixture of power and precision this week, with a premium very much on approach and around the greens.

72-Hole Record - 261, Tiger Woods (2019)
18-Hole Record - 63, Keegan Bradley & Rory McIlroy (2019)
Past Winners - Tiger Woods (2019)
The Field - Like last week, a reduced field of 78 golfers line up for this week's tournament. Jon Rahm is the favourite.

The Weather
There's some cloud in the sky, but the chance of seeing any rain this week is minimal. Temperatures will be in mid 70s, at best, and with wind speeds generally low it should be the ideal week to break out the plus-fours.

This week’s Golf Insider tips range from one of the favourites to one of the outsiders.

COLLIN MORIKAWA - "This is very much an old school layout which favours thinkers and precise iron play over power. Now this brings into play most, if not all, of the players near the head of the market. But I think there are genuine doubts over most of them. There was a temptation to stick with Schauffele, who did everything but win last week, but another who I'm happier to stick with is Morikawa. He's been a little off the pace since winning the US Open, but last week's 12th in Las Vegas was a step back in the right direction. The key is putting. Morikawa ranked 55th of 78 last week. But when he putts well, he contends. So back in his native state, I think he'll have those extra few percentage points in his game that will spur him on. Remember, he still boasts three wins in just 35 career starts, so he's some player! The course should hold no fears for him (Morikawa ranks highly for key stats like Par 5 scoring, Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green) he just needs a good, and overdue, week on the greens. For me he shades the value-call at the top of the market."

VIKTOR HOVLAND - "Hovland deserves his place on our list, and despite being one of the new kids on the block, I think his game should suit this venue nicely. His iron play rivals the world's best, and his short game has come on leaps-and-bounds over the last six months. Hovland hasn't missed a cut since the re-start of golf in June, and has six Top 15 finishes to his name. His form figures over the last three events read 14-13-12, so he's trending nicely in the right direction. His tee-to-green game continues to impress, gaining 19 strokes on the field in his last three events. He won the Puerto Rico Open just before lockdown, and looks set to add to his tally. This week could be the perfect opportunity with his form good, and the course ideal for his game.

JUSTIN ROSE - " I saw signs at Wentworth two weeks ago that suggest his game isn't as far away as it may seem. Last week at the CJ Cup, Rose was poor, and so were his stats, but the week before at Wentworth, Rose ranked 15th from tee-to-green despite finishing 37th. He gained 7.5 strokes on the field, with his long game and approaches, so I'm not totally writing him of just yet. Last week, despite playing poorly, he still managed to gain strokes with his approach play - something which is key this week. Rose has an excellent record in California, the best of which was the win at the Farmers Insurance Open last year. Rose has a further six Top 10's to his name from his last 11 starts in the state. It's asking a lot for Rose to win this week, but he's got the golfing brain to handle the layout, and his iron play is still good, despite some poor results. "

DANNY LEE - "Lee played very well from tee-to-green last week in the CJ Cup, ranking 15th in the field, which bodes well for this week. He's is a quality player who blows hot-and-cold, which makes calling him right a hard task! But there were enough positives last week to suggest he could compete again this week at another massive price. Lee finished 10th at last year's Zozo Championship (albeit in Japan) and although this year's event is being played at a different venue, players often perform well in certain tournaments even when the course changes. I think Lee is genuinely overpriced considering his good play last week."

TYLER DUNCAN - "One last try on Tyler Duncan, whose game looks perfect for the Sherwood test. Duncan's game is based on accuracy and good iron play, over power, and he'll look to follow in the footsteps of Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Matt Kuchar - who have all won here, or gone extremely close. These three players show you that distance isn't everything this week, and Duncan will know that he can compete with the best around such a course. Last week at the CJ Cup he finished 28th, which was a solid showing with his driving particularly impressive - ranking 5th in this category. Just three starts ago at the US Open, Duncan finished 34th, and ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Approach, which is extremely impressive. If Duncan can match up his accurate driving, and good ball-striking, he should go well this week and can take confidence from his win at the RSM Classic last year."