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2019 Zozo Championship picks: What our experts predict from Tiger Woods this week

October 23, 2019
INZAI, JAPAN - OCTOBER 21: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates on the 6th green during The Challenge: Japan Skins at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on October 21, 2019 in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Victory laps taken by those who offer gambling advice often fall on deaf ears. Understandably so: It’s all about what you’ve done lately in the business of picking winners. So as we discussed briefly in our post this morning of how our expert panel has correctly predicted five of the six winners in this young PGA Tour season thus far, there's no secret to success. But there are some trends and strategies worth monitoring. We encourage you to read it, if only to help our fellow degenerates.

But again, the past is the past. But perhaps our recent run is more reason to trust our impressive collection of experts, the best in golf, which includes a PGA Tour caddie offering insight from the range and putting green at The Zozo Championship, thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network; picks from Jason Sobel, a senior writer at The Action Network, which is becoming the leader in sports betting and handicapping analysis, and its growing its presence in golf; two of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports, which tracks DFS ownership and sentiment; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.

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2019 Zozo Championship Picks To Win (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)

PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Adam Scott (22-1) — I think he’s shown some decent form from the end of last season (top-nine finishes in all three FedExCup events) that will carry over. He just needs to stop worrying about policing the game and go out and play. The driver is easy to hit. That’s how it is for everybody. Go out there and play.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Rory McIlroy (9-1) — Despite not knowing a ton about the course, on paper, it plays perfectly for Rory. McIlroy has won at three shorter courses (TPC Sawgrass, Hamilton, East Lake) already this year. And these wildly sloping, expected-to-be fast greens play to his only putting strength. Of all the top-end favorites, Rory’s the guy.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Xander Schauffele (25-1) — Schauffele has a penchant for no-cut events, winning three of them in his young career. Without any prior course history, everyone is at a level playing field, and Schauffele’s all-around game makes him someone we can trust to stay in contention for all four rounds.

Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Tony Finau (35-1) — Oddsmakers might not be giving Finau enough credit for his recent form. Since mid-August in five starts across the world, Finau has four top-10s. That's incredibly good. That included a Saturday 62 in Vegas, in which he actual lost strokes putting, which was the lowest round in tour history to come with losing strokes on the green.

Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Tony Finau (35-1) — After I listed Thomas in this spot at +650 last week, one Twitter follower replied with a salient question: “How are you gonna support JT as an outright play? Those odds are never worth it!” I agree—and I wrote as much, saying that you’d have to eat those low odds if you wanted to back him last week. The point is, picking a winner and picking a favorite bet are mutually exclusive. The odds aren’t as low for Finau, who could be a nice play this week. Still with just one career win, I’ve got to believe he’s more motivated than some of his fellow competitors to capture a title and kick his career into the next gear.

Golf Digest editors: Justin Thomas (8-1) — Call us squares, but Justin Thomas just looked dominant last week in Asia. Why wouldn't we take him here at similar odds? Sure, the field is a little tougher, but the stats still point to JT ranking in the top five in nearly every strokes-gained category over the past 36 rounds, per We'll ride the heater.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Rory McIlroy (9-1) — McIlroy has five top-10 finishes and a win in his last seven events. He ranks eighth in our course suitability metric and, as per, fifth for strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past two months.

Results from this season: We have correctly predicted five of the season’s first six winners! Three members of our expert panel picked the favorite, Justin Thomas (8-1), last week at the CJ Cup (Dr. Lou Riccio, Jason Sobel and Lee Alldrick). Riccio and Alldrick also won with Joaquin Niemann (22-1) at the Greenbrier, as did Brandon Gdula, who is riding a heater, having also picked Lanto Griffin (45-1) two weeks ago and Sebastian Munoz (65-1) at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Pat Mayo also picked Niemann at the Greenbrier. And our Golf Digest Editors picked Kevin Na (70-1) as their sleeper pick at the Safeway Open.

Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2019 Zozo Championship (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)

PGA Tour Caddie: Viktor Hovland (35-1) — Last week’s 74 in the third round at the CJ Cup broke up his streak of 19 consecutive rounds in the 60s. But he bounced back on Sunday with a 69 and I believe that’s the start of a new streak that will continue at the Zozo Championship. He got that one round out of his system and now he can refocus on putting four solid rounds together. Look at his track record since June: He’s pretty much one round away from winning a tournament.

Mayo: Kevin Kisner (70-1) — Watching the Skins Game on TV and looking at drone footage of this course, I’m getting a lot of Harbour Town vibes. And if that's the case, you can’t pass up Kevin Kisner. He's accurate and always a better putter on bentgrass. Last season, he kept improving his results each week from the British Open on, closing with consecutive top-10s in the playoffs. Oddsmakers seem to be forgetting those performances, leading to some extreme value here for Kiz.

Gdula: Chez Reavie (70-1) — Reavie leads the field in fairways gained and good drives over a 50-round sample and is a top-flight ball-striker who ranks top-20 in strokes gained/off the tee and strokes gained/approach in that timeframe. He does enough in the short game to stick around, too.

Riccio: Joaquin Niemann (50-1) — My model gives Niemann nearly a 10-percent chance to win this week, way above the 50-to-1 odds you'll find from most sportsbooks this week. Niemann's ball-striking stats put him in an elite category, and his putting on bentgrass does, too. He's already gotten over the hurdle of winning, which we predicted a few weeks ago at The Greenbrier. If the floodgates open, we want to cash in.

Sobel, Action Network: Ryo Ishikawa (125-1) — Granted, it would be an extreme prognostication to choose the former Bashful Prince phenom to win this tournament, but years after we once assumed he’d have hit it big by now, a solid performance certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

This summer, Ishikawa won Japan Tour titles in back-to-back starts (albeit seven weeks apart) and has since posted results of 13-5-6-3-47-26-12. If you're looking for a one-and-done play, this could be your guy as you’re not burning a guy in OAD formats whom you’d use anywhere else and he could be an intriguing play in his home country.

Golf Digest editors: Viktor Hovland (35-1) — It's tough to call someone at 35-1 a sleeper, but these are the lowest odds you'll find Hovland at. Particularly if he goes on to win this week. His stats are insanely good: Over the past 36 rounds, he's first in strokes gained/ball-striking; second in strokes gained/off-the-tee; and third in strokes gained/approaches. On a layout where it looks like you need total control of your golf ball, Hovland seems to fit the course quite nicely.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Joaquin Niemann (50-1) — Niemann ranks first in the field this week for strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past two months. He also ranks 15th in our course suitability metric and putts well on these bentgrass greens, ranking 13th in the field for strokes gained/putting on the surface.

Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)

PGA Tour Caddie: Scott Piercy (125-1) — Damn near finished last a week ago with weekend rounds of 79-78. He might have a little homesickness setting in. I wouldn't expect him to turn it around so quickly.

Mayo: Jordan Spieth (25-1) — If Spieth doesn’t make every putt from 25 feet and in, he’s not going to win. Since that can’t happen, 25-1 is a tad steep for Spieth.

Gdula: Jordan Spieth (25-1) — I’ll keep fading Spieth when he’s priced where he is. I obviously prefer Schauffele at the same price, and even that was a coin-flip between Xander and Paul Casey. Last week, Spieth finished T-8 but was second-to-last in driving accuracy and just average in greens in regulation. He won’t be able to be errant here.


Chung Sung-Jun

Riccio: Adam Scott (22-1) — Surprisingly, Adam Scott has lost strokes off-the-tee in his last three appearances, which is the first time in the past five years, which is as far back as Fantasy National's stats go, he has done so. Given how low his odds are, there are much better options in this tier.

Sobel, Action Network: Tiger Woods (35-1) — I should probably rename this category for this week only, because I don’t hate Tiger this week by any means. Coming off a two-month break during which he underwent another knee surgery, he showed in the Skins Game that there could be some rust. I expect this to be one of those very Tiger-like performances, where he limps into the opening round (no, not literally) with a 70, then follows with scores of 68-65-67 for a four-day total that doesn’t sniff the leaders, but shows enough promise on the weekend that we can have reason for optimism afterward.

Golf Digest editors: Jordan Spieth (25-1) — We're sticking with our pick here from last week (which admittedly was a miss). But based on the stats, it really wasn't. Spieth will have to duplicate another lights-out putting performance, which is so hit-or-miss, that we'd rather take a shot with players with a better stats profile.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Adam Scott (22-1) — A fifth-place finish at the Japan Open may turn a few heads, but that was a poor field compared to this week. Scott ranks low in the field this week for strokes-gained/tee-to green over the past two months and just 45th in our course-suitability metric.

2019 ZOZO Championship: Matchups

PGA Tour Caddie: Gary Woodland (+100) over Tony Finau (Sportbet) — The U.S. Open champ is coming off a T-3 last week at the CJ Cup, and he's the underdog here? I’m definitely going with the Jayhawk.

Mayo: Jason Day (-110) over Tiger Woods (Bet365) — Maybe I’m getting rope-a-doped by watching Tiger in the Skins Game, but he looked pretty awful. Day, not great, but good enough. Probably a sucker’s bet, but the sample size was enough for me to recommend a play against Tiger.

Gdula: Matthew Fitzpatrick (+105) over Emiliano Grillo (DraftKings) — Grillo’s putting is bad enough that we can worry about him on these greens, which look pretty tricky. Fitzpatrick has had positive numbers in all four tee-to-green stats in 2019 after adjusting for field strength, via datagolf.

Riccio: Tiger Woods (+115) over Adam Scott (Sportsbet) — People are fading Tiger Woods based in part of his performance in an 18-hole exhibition on Sunday, and also in part because of his surgery. He looks good health-wise in what we've seen, the question is whether he's sharp competitively this week. Rather than try to fade what we may or may not think, I'd rather rely on the long-term stats, which put Tiger way above Scott in my model, so I'll gladly take the plus-points here.

Sobel, Action Network: Viktor Hovland (-122) over Colin Morikawa (Bet365) — The best thing about taking Hovland in full-tourney head-to-head wagers is that his final-round play is usually so stellar that you’ll have a chance to cash, even if he starts Sunday a handful of strokes behind his competition.

In his pro debut at last year’s Travelers Championship, Hovland posted a closing 73. Since then? He’s played a half-dozen Sunday rounds on the PGA Tour: 64-65-64-65-64-69. Not to read too much into a small sample size, but this shows he plays well when the pressure is greatest and even if there’s little pressure and he’s well out of contention, he doesn’t pack it in and cruise toward the clubhouse.

Golf Digest editors: Joaquin Niemann (-110) over Shane Lowry (Bet365) — Give us the better recent form with Joaquin Niemann over Shane Lowry, though it feels dangerous to fade the Champion Golfer of the Year. Niemann's elite putting stats on bentgrass, as discussed above, also lead us to the young 20-year-old who also played well at last week's CJ Cup (T-12).

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Tony Finau (-110) over Adam Scott (Betway) — Finau ranks third in strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past two months and is 12th in our course suitability metric. Reed on the other hand, ranks 45th for strokes gained/tee-to-green and just 47th in our course suitability metric.

Matchup results last week: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Corey Conners (-110) over Abraham Ancer); GD Editors: 1 for 1 (Joaquin Niemann (-110) over Billy Horschel); PGA Tour Caddie: 1 for 1 (Sergio Garcia (-115) over Billy Horschel); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Justin Thomas (-132) over Brooks Koepka); Gdula, Riccio, Sobel: 0 for 1.

Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager): Mayo: 5 for 6 (up 3.82 units); PGA Tour Caddie: 4 for 5 (up 2.82 units); Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 4 for 5 (up 2.26 units); Riccio: 3 wins, 2 losses, 1 push (up 0.99 units); GD Editors: 3 for 5 (up 0.63 units); Action Network: 2 for 5 (down 1.09 units); Gdula: 2 for 6 (down 2.14 units)

Top 10 (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)

PGA Tour Caddie: Collin Morikawa (+350) — What an exciting young player. It’s unbelievable that he was able to pull off a win in the sponsor’s exemption spot at the Barracuda. He has the talent to win on any stage. Young and hungry. Look out.

Mayo: Adam Hadwin (+500) — Hot with the irons, great from the sand, and the best player in the field on Par 3s from 175-200 yards over the past 24 rounds, Adam Hadwin’s under valued in the betting market. Le Canadien, is second this season in greens in regulation and hitting a ton of fairways; ie, avoiding trouble. And it’s led to a second and fourth in two starts.

Gdula: Billy Horschel (+500) — Horschel’s all-around game and precision off the tee should vault him up the leaderboard this week. Horschel grades out as a top-12 scrambler and is 21st in fairways gained over the past 50 rounds, according to FantasyNational. If seeking some value without punting for a top-10, Horschel checks the box.

Riccio: Jason Day (+350) — You can’t put too much stock in an exhibition, so picking Jason Day because he won the Skins Game on Sunday night isn't the reason to back J-Day here. It is his long-term short game stats and putting efficiency. Based on what we saw from the course on Sunday, those two things are going to be crucial to success here. Day might be the most skilled scrambler in golf, so at these odds, I'd back him to be near the top of the leaderboard.

Sobel, Action Network: Andrew Putnam (+450) — I’m ripping this one straight from the text of last week’s CJ Cup preview: “Putnam has proven over the past year that his estimable game will travel. During these 12 months, he’s been T-21 at the BMW PGA Championship, T-32 at The Open Championship, T-4 at the Scottish Open, T-17 at the Dunlop Phoenix and T-4 at the WGC-HSBC Champions.”

We can now throw in a T-20 at the CJ, just the latest evidence that Putnam enjoys plying his craft around the world. Don’t be surprised if he bests that performance by at least 10 spots this week.

Golf Digest editors: Paul Casey (+250) — Paul Casey won just a few weeks ago at the European Tour's Porsche European Masters. And that followed a third-place finish at the Tour Championship. On a tightish layout where approach shots will be key, that screams a high finish for an in-form Paul Casey.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jason Day (+350) — Day not only comes out ranked 2nd in our course suitability metric but also ranks 2nd in the field this week for Shots Gained Putting on Bentgrass greens. The course should suit and he’s still one of the class players in the field.

Top 10 results last week: Everybody: 0 for 1

Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Mayo: 1 for 5 (+11 units); Alldrick: 2 for 6 (+8.5 units); GD Editors: 2 for 6 (+2.85 units); Action Network: 1 for 6 (-1.5 units); Gdula 1 for 6 (-1.7 units); Riccio: 1 for 6 (-2.5 units); PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 6 (-6 units)

DraftKings lineups

Mayo: Like Rory, Woodland loves shorter courses despite the bomber tag. Plus he’s cheap relative to other players. And you can make it all work if you take Shaun Norris. The South African has been splitting time between the Japanese, Asian, and Korean Tours, with blistering success on all of the them. In his past six starts he has a win, two runners-up, and five top-10s. He’s only $6,200 on DraftKings.

Here's who I'd build my lineups around on DraftKings this week: Rory McIlroy ($11,500); Gary Woodland ($9,500); Adam Hadwin ($8,100); Kevin Kisner ($7,600); Shaun Norris ($6,300).

Riccio: Jordan Spieth finished top 10 last week, despite finishing second-to-last in a no-cut event in driving average. While some might point to that being a sign of regression, I believe Spieth is the rare player whose putting stats are repeatable week over week. When he heats up, he often keeps that hot putter going. And if he can find some more semblance in other parts of the game, it could point to him finishing closer to the top of the leaderboard. And stacking around Spieth allows for a balanced lineup build, like the one I have below:

Jordan Spieth ($10,000); Tony Finau ($9,200); Jason Day ($8,900); Joaquin Niemann ($8,200); Bubba Watson ($6,800); Keegan Bradley ($6,500).

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: There are so many cheap options available this week, it’s definitely a star and scrubs week. Here's a lineup I like for this week: Rory McIlroy ($11,500); Jason Day ($8,900); Joaquin Niemann ($8,200); Emiliano Grillo ($7,500); Shugo Imahira ($7,100); Chan Kim ($6,300).

FanShare Sports' Under The Radar DFS Pick of the WeekChan Kim (FanDuel: $7,200; DraftKings: $6,300) — Kim is currently the leader of the Japanese Tour Order Of Merit. He comes in off the back of winning the Japan Open Golf Championship last week. In 21 events this year, Kim has posted six top 10 finishes which includes six top 3 finishes. Kim is a bomber of the ball and ranks 1st on the Japanese Tour, this season, for Driving Distance and 3rd for Eagles Per Round. If he makes the cut and gets himself an eagle, then he will easily pay for his $6,300 outlay.


FanDuel lineups

Gdula: This week, there’s a case to be made for targeting different archetypes of golfers. The course could be kind to ball-strikers and prove easily scorable. It also could turn into a test of scrambling and burying putts on the undulating greens. Stacking lineups based on what players do well makes sense.

Either way, Justin Thomas ($12,200) and Rory McIlroy ($12,300) are the top two plays and can be rostered together, given value elsewhere. Cheap plays include Joaquin Niemann ($9,100), Adam Hadwin ($8,900), and Kevin Kisner ($8,300).

Riccio: You have (very) strong equity with the top five in this lineup. They actually represent the top five players rated in my model this week. You're just banking on Keegan Bradley to put some low numbers, which should be doable given his ball-striking proficiency.

Justin Thomas ($12,200); Jordan Spieth ($10,900); Tony Finau ($10,100); Jason Day ($9,900); Joaquin Niemann ($9,100); Keegan Bradley ($7,700).

About our experts

Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.

Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the 2019 Wyndham Championship.

Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.

Jason Sobel is a senior writer for The Action Network. To Check out The Action Network's comprehensive betting platform for all sports, click here]({: rel=nofollow}.

Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a UK-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.