2022 ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP Odds & Sleeper Picks: 4 Longshots to Bet, Including Matthew NeSmith, Kurt Kitayama
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew NeSmith
Click arrow to expand 2022 ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP odds via bet365
|Si Woo Kim||+2800|
The PGA TOUR adds a stamp to its passport this week and heads to Japan for the ZOZO Championship. For the third time in the tournament’s short four-year history, the event will be hosted at Narashino Country Club.
Last year finished with a storybook ending as native son Hideki Matsuyama collected the win on home soil after falling just short as runner-up in 2020.
This year, perhaps a new story can be written with a Cinderella crowned as champion. It's a strong field that features several of the top names in golf, but there’s certainly a chance for a sleeper to emerge by Sunday.
These four names jump off the betting board as dark horses capable of winning who also have value at their current odds.
Kurt Kitayama +6000 (DraftKings)
Since mid-July, Kitayama has been playing some of the best golf of his career. He was runner-up at the Scottish Open, T20 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, T19 at the BMW Championship and finished in seventh-place at the Italian Open.
Among players in this week’s field, he ranks seventh in totalstrokes gained per round over the past three months, per DataGolf. He also has the best mark in the Strokes Gained: Around the Green category.
His hot wedges and sharp swing have fueled his series of strong finishes and some sportsbooks have taken more notice than others. You’ll see him listed elsewhere as low as +4500 (FanDuel).
Matthew NeSmith +7000 (DraftKings)
We tabbed NeSmith as a name to watch last week at the Shriners Children’s Open and he answered with a top-five finish. Let’s happily hop right back on that horse and take him again.
Prior to his runner-up at the Shriners, NeSmith was T9 in Jackson at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Those marked his two best finishes and his two best strokes gained numbers since last April.
Last year, in his only appearance at this venue, NeSmith unspectacularly made the cut (a T48 finish). Now, playing the best golf he’s managed in a while, we expect a better showing.
Adam Schenk +13000 (DraftKings)
Since this venue has only hosted an event twice, any dipping into analytics is a dance with small sample sizes. Yet, bettors will take any hint we can find, so finding a pattern from the prior editions of the ZOZO could help unearth the sleeper we need.
Just 17 players will be teeing it up for the third time at Narashino Country Club. Of that group, the most successful players have been mostly expected. Hideki Matsuyama leads the way in strokes gained at this venue, followed by Keegan Bradley, Tommy Fleetwood, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele. All of those players can be found with much shorter odds than what we’re aiming to find in this exercise.
The next player on that list, the sixth best among the 17 returning for a third trip, is Adam Schenk. He’s finished T22 and T28 in his two prior appearances at the ZOZO. That doesn’t inspire much love, but he was T12 at the Shriners last week.
At these odds, we can roll the dice on a mild mix of recent success and course experience. FanDuel certainly likes his chances more than DraftKings and listed him at just +8000.
Danny Lee +35000 (BetMGM)
If you want a long shot, let’s go really long. Depending on which book you’re perusing, you won’t find more than a handful of players with longer odds than Danny Lee.
Lee enters having missed the cut in the past four events he’s played. Thanks to nagging injuries, that streak extends all the way to the US Open back in June. It’s a shame, because he played some good golf prior to those issues. Lee earned three top 10s in the 2022 season, after no such finishes in the 2021 season.
Maybe to find his form again, Lee needs to step foot on a course where he has played well before. Luckily for those betting him at these odds, that might just be the case this week. In his only appearance here at the ZOZO, back in 2019, Lee finished T10. A third round 65 was worth +4.0 strokes gained on the field that week.
That isn’t much evidence to support a pick, yet at a number like this, it’s enough for a lottery ticket. Again, if you’re reading anything into the odds across books, DraftKings lists him down at +25000 and FanDuel is even more bullish at +17000.
Even at +1600 to top 10 at BetMGM, he makes for an intriguing play.