Grab your passport as the FedExCup Fall takes 78 players to Golf Accordia Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan.
Since opening for play in 1965, Narashino Country Club continues to host big-time events. The PGA TOUR returns for the fourth edition in five years on Japanese soil and will feature the Par-70 playing 7,079 yards for the second consecutive event.
The Land of the Rising Sun may be halfway around the world, but the champions here have been winners on the biggest stages in golf.
Tiger Woods won the inaugural event on 19 under in 2019. Favorite son Hideki Matsuyama, who finished second to Woods, was the victor on the return in 2021. Defending champion Keegan Bradley came from behind to catch Rickie Fowler and win by one shot in the 2022 edition last October.
With 16 of the top 50 in the OWGR making tee times this week, and no 36-hole cut to bother, the winner this time around should be a very familiar name.
Top of the Board
Xander Schauffele (7/1): Class is permanent. Form is temporary. Looking to pick up his third top 10 from four starts at Narashino, it’s hardly a surprise he’s the favourite. Limited field, no-cut events have been his calling card over the last five seasons. With ties to the area (his mother is Japanese), I would expect another spirited 72 holes.
Collin Morikawa (11/1): Making his fourth start, the two-time major champ will look to pick up his second top-10 paycheque. Flashing glimpses with 64 twice, the Californian has produced just one top 20 (T7) in three previous attempts. Punishing fairways and greens, I prefer his putter on Bentgrass, in play this week, over Bermuda.
Sungjae Im (12/1): The quiet summer finally bloomed when the biggest (non-major) money was on the table in the FedExCup Playoffs. Cashing T14 at Wyndham to end the regular season was followed by T6 in Memphis and solo seventh at the BMW Championship. Winning the Asian Games and finishing P2 last week in Korea suggests the momentum should be very real this week. I’m on board!
Hideki Matsuyama (16/1): Second on debut. Winner by five in his second attempt. Native son. Crowd favorite. The last time he played on TOUR he withdrew at the BMW Championship. Lovely risk/reward proposition based on his course history.
Rickie Fowler (16/1): Many, including myself, thought this was going to be his launching point for the 2022-23 season last October. Instead, he was beaten to the finish line in the final group by Keegan Bradley. The leader after 36 holes and 54 holes posted 70 in Round 4 and lost by a shot. If he’s healthy this week, he will factor again.
Min Woo Lee (16/1): There’s no chance I’ll ignore 30-under and a victory last week. The field in Macau wasn’t the strongest, but there’s no better tonic after three weeks off than a win, regardless of field or course. The rust is gone, the confidence is high, and the Australian will look to keep it going as summer approaches in his native land.
Sahith Theegala (18/1): The confluence of results here is strong. Winning for the first time on TOUR in his last time out combined with T5 in his first event here last October equals a “no-brainer”. Guys who win for the first time on TOUR should be allowed to celebrate, relax, and enjoy the fruits of the labor. I’m not fading Theegala this week. I’m also pushing him to the front.
Posting 19 under in 2019, Tiger Woods owns the tournament scoring record.
Signing for 61 last October, John Huh (not entered this week) owns the course record.
All three previous winners are major champions with ages ranging from 29 to 43.
All three winners have ranked in the top three in GIR.
Keegan Bradley is the only champion not to three-putt. Matsuyama and Woods both had THREE, three-putts.
Narashino Country Club has five par-4s stretching 480 yards or more. It also features five par-3s ranging from 141 yards to 205 yards.
Nothing easy off the tee or into the greens here. Bentgrass greens won’t trouble this field, but finding them in regulation will be the key.
Others to Consider:
Cameron Davis (20/1): Primed to kick down the door, the Australian has cashed in the top 10 in five of his last six events. Copy and paste until he does.
Cameron Champ (45/1): There’s no value here, but the heat is real. After missing the cut at Fortinet, he rebounded with T9 at SFC and T18 last week in Las Vegas. Posting four rounds in the 60s on debut last year, he went home with solo eighth prize money.
Alex Noren (45/1): Cashed T3 last week after hitting T2 GIR. Game travels.
Joel Dahmen (66/1): The last three on Bentgrass greens have produced T7, T13, and T10. Sold.
Takumi Kanaya (80/1): With all the eyeballs on Matsuyama, Kanaya, another former great Japanese amateur, will look to sneak in the back door again. Posting four top sevens in his last seven events, I’ll play one JTGO member this week. Cashing T7 here in 2021 doesn’t push me away.
Michael Kim (90/1): Closed 65-65 last week in Las Vegas for T18 after T5 in his previous TOUR start.
Mackenzie Hughes (110/1): Two visits have resulted in T4 and T23.