The Zozo Championship was held for the first time in 2019 and was played at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, Inzai, on the outskirts on Tokyo, Japan. The 2020 tournament was moved to the USA, playing at the Sherwood Country Club in California and will return to Japan for 2021.
This was the first tournament in Japan sanctioned by the PGA Tour and is organised jointly with the Japan Golf Tour. Title sponsors Zozo are a Japanese online fashion retailer, founded by billionaire Yasuka Maezawa.
The inaugural tournament couldn’t have had a higher profile winner, with Tiger Woods triumphant over local hero Hideki Matsuyama and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
|Sherwood Country Club||Lake Sherwood, California||7,073 Yards||$8,000,000|
For the second week in a row on the PGA Tour one of the Asian Swing tournaments is taking place in America due to travel restrictions. That means that a host venue has had to be found. Last week the tournament went to Shadow Creek which was making its debut and it’s the same story with Sherwood Country Club. Although it has hosted world class golfers before in its role as the host of the Tiger Woods’ World Challenge and the Invesco QQQ Championship on the Champions Tour, it has never hosted a regular PGA Tour event.
Some would argue against this being a regular event as the field is limited to 78 and there is no cut. In theory, that will provide the competitors with ample time to work out where the best chances of scoring birdies or better are but in practice it is a fairly obvious task. There are five par fives on the par 72 layout at Sherwood Country Club and scoring on them will go a long way to determining the winner. Of course, there are five par threes as well though, so those two can be crucial, with the back nine highly unusual in having just three par fours.
With a total yardage of just shy of 7,100 yards, this is a short course by PGA Tour standards, though that is partly explained by the five par threes. In addition, the parkland layout has been cleverly designed by Jack Nicklaus and his team, so it will demand strategy to complement power off the tee. The tiered greens are also well guarded by runoff areas and bunkers so anybody without a high functioning iron and wedge game will find themselves behind the curve.
ZOZO Championship Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2020||Patrick Cantlay||Sherwood Country Club||-23||1 Stroke|
|2019||Tiger Woods||Narashino Country Club||-19||3 Strokes|
About the Zozo Championship
The Zozo Championship was established in 2019, becoming the first event played in Japan to be given a regular slot on the PGA Tour. The tournament is usually held at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
The field is made up of 78 of the world’s best players, with the first edition won by the great Tiger Woods. A very healthy prize fund of $9.75m was up for grabs in Japan in 2019, with Woods winning a share of $1.75m in prize money. The 2019 event was a successful competition on the PGA Tour, and the current deal will last until at least 2025.
Woods Wins Inaugural Tournament in Japan
Tiger Woods’ first PGA Tour victory came way back in October 1996, as a young Tiger picked up the Las Vegas Invitational. Over the years, Woods has turned himself into one of the best players of all time, winning a staggering 82 PGA Tour events (at the time of writing… there could well be more to come!). Number 82 came in the first ever Zozo Championship in October 2019.
Tiger was pushed close by home favourite Hideki Matsuyama. However, Woods led wire-to-wire in Japan, winning by three strokes in an eventful competition. Woods posted rounds of 64, 64, 66 and 67 to get the job done, and though Matsuyama wasn’t too far behind (he shot 65-67-65-67), he just couldn’t haul Tiger in.
As much as the Japanese fans would have liked a home winner, seeing Woods tie Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories was a wonderful moment for the first Zozo Championship. Golf fans in Japan are accustomed to seeing some decent players visit them in various Asian Tour events, but this was another level in terms of class and prestige.
After his historic win, the Californian said, “Well, it’s a big number. It’s about consistency and doing it for a long period of time. I’m very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had so far.” Woods added Japan to America, England, Scotland, Spain, Canada and Ireland to the list of countries that he’s won in.
Who Could Win the Zozo?
With most PGA Tour events we have at least a few years of stats and information to go on which is a great help when attempting to assess which players are likely to win them. Given this event is new on the scene, it is going to be difficult to predict which players are going to do well in it, at least for a while.
Having said that, the nature of the par-70 course does lend itself to certain types of players. At 7,041 yards, it is not long by modern standards, or indeed when compared to most courses on the PGA Tour. In fact it’s more than 700 yards shorter than the monster 7,765 yard Torrey Pines South Course and 400 or so shorter than Augusta.
The tree-lined course used for the Zozo Championship can be unforgiving to any shots that stray far from the fairway, so driving accuracy is paramount. There are also few opportunities for eagles unless serious risks are taken, but steady birdie-makers are likely to do well. Rory McIlroy’s balanced and accurate game allowed him to finish in third position in the inaugural tournament and we can see him doing well in future years, with the likes of Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley and even Ian Poulter likely to enjoy playing here.