Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
Tom Kim's meteoric rise in golf continued as he took down the Shriners Children's Open on Sunday for his 2nd PGA Tour win. Here are some of the headlines and accolades that accompanied Kim's win (shoutout to Justin Ray, @justinraygolf on Twitter, for some of these):
Two wins in his last four starts.
Two wins in just 18 career PGA Tour starts (third fewest starts before second PGA Tour win since 1970).
At 20 years, 3 months, and 18 days old, Tom Kim became the second youngest ever to win twice on the PGA Tour.
First player since Tiger Woods to win twice on the PGA Tour before turning 21.
Bogey-free through all 72 holes; third golfer ever to do that in a PGAT win (last was J.T. Poston in 2019 at the Wyndham Championship).
Now the 15th ranked golfer in the world (Tom Kim was ranked 132nd at the start of 2022).
Patrick Cantlay made triple bogey on the final hole Sunday to lose by three shots. Still, Cantlay continued his amazing track record at TPC Summerlin by posting another runner-up finish. Cantlay now has a win and three 2nd places at Shriners.
Jason Day surged on Sunday, making birdie on 9 of his final 12 holes of the tournament to post a top-10 finish. This was Day's best finish since the Farmers Insurance Open (Tied-3rd) last January.
Although it's just a six round sample size, Day is averaging +1.43 SG: APP per round so far this season--that ranks 2nd on the PGA Tour.
Matthew NeSmith, who also finished runner-up with Cantlay, led the field in stroked gained tee-to-green (+10.25 SG: T2G).
NeSmith is +13.23 Total SG: APP over the past two events; finished top-10 in both.
Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club - Chiba, Japan
Event #4 of 2022-23 FedExCup regular season
No Cut Event
78-Player Field (9 of which get in via the Japanese Tour's money list)
The ZOZO Championship is a relatively new, co-sanctioned event between the PGA Tour and the Japanese Golf Tour. It began in 2019 with Tiger Woods as the inaugural winner of the event, but then due to the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 the ZOZO was forced to be played in the United States as just a regular PGA event.
The 2020 version of the ZOZO was played at Sherwood Country Club in Lake Sherwood, California. Therefore, the history of the ZOZO Championship proper--played at Accordia Golf Narashino CC in Japan--is limited to results from just the 2019 and 2021 season.
Tiger Woods won at -19 in 2019, and then Hideki Matsuyama won at -15 in 2021.
There's no shotlink data from the two years the ZOZO Championship has been played at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club; therefore, there's no strokes gained numbers or shot-by-shot data to pull from this week.
In lieu of that, here are a few things we can note on Narashino CC:
The course opened in 1965, taking on both American and European influence.
Par 70 scorecard, uniquely setup with 5 par-3's and 3 par-5's.
The course scoring average over the two years played is exactly even Par.
Many golf courses in Japan, including Narashino CC, have two greens on each hole. In 2019, the par-4 4th hole used both greens; in 2021, the par-3 5th hole used two greens. We should expect to see similar this week.
Aaron Wise pulled out of the field following his Sunday round at the Shriners Children's Open. He shot 73 (+2) and fell back to T64 with his poor final round.
Sam Ryder (1st alternate) replaced Aaron Wise in this week's ZOZO field.
Ten top-30 OWGR golfers headline this week's top-heavy field: Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim, Cameron Young, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Tyrrell Hatton, Corey Conners, Tommy Fleetwood.
9 golfers gained entry into the field via the Japanese Tour's money list: Kazuki Higa, Rikuya Hoshino, Shugo Imahira, Aguri Iawaski, Hiroshi Iwata, Yuto Katsuragawa, Riki Kawamoto, Kaito Onishi, Tomoharus Otsuki.
Sebastian Munoz (OWGR 71st)
Sebastian Munoz withdrew from the Sanderson Farms Championship on 9/26, a couple days before the start of the event. No information was given for the WD, though Munoz did compete in the Presidents Cup the week prior with seemingly no issues. He's in the field for this week's ZOZO Championship.
Peter Malnati (OWGR 319th)
Peter Malnati withdrew just prior to his Round 1 tee time at last week's Shriners Children's Open (10/6). The reason for Malnati's WD was not disclosed, but as of now it seem he's in good status to compete this week in Japan.
Davis Riley (OWGR 72nd)
Davis Riley withdrew a few days prior to last week's Shriners Children's Open (10/4). Riley finished T19 the week prior at the Sanderson Farms Championship. We have no information on any injuries for Riley--though given the timing of his WD several days prior and also his inclusion in this overseas event, it's likely that he just wanted to take a week off before the ZOZO.
NOT in ZOZO Championship Field
Aaron Wise (OWGR 37th)
As already noted, Aaron Wise pulled out of this event following his final round at the Shriners Children's Open (10/9). Wise slid 41 spots down the leaderboard on Sunday after shooting 73 (+2). It's possible he tweaked something and decided he needed a week off, but we have no official information on why Wise decided not to play in Japan after originally being listed in the field.
Erik Van Rooyen (OWGR 86th)
Erik Van Rooyen announced on August 11th--via his social media--that he would take some time off due to a minor back injury. He's returning this week on the DP World Tour to play in the Anadalcuia Masters in Spain.
Please note the distinct time difference. Japan is 13 hours ahead of east coast time in the United States.
Round 1 starts at 7:50 PM ET (Wednesday evening in the U.S.); Round 2 starts at 7:50 PM ET (Thursday evening in the U.S.).
Horses for Courses
ZOZO Championship golfers with highest "True Strokes Gained" (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at Narashino Country Club:
Hideki Matsuyama +4.13 (8 rounds)
Sungjae Im +3.40 (4 rounds)
Corey Conners +2.90 (4 rounds)
Brendan Steele +2.86 (4 rounds)
Danny Lee +2.40 (4 rounds)
Keegan Bradley +1.88 (8 rounds)
Mackenzie Hughes +1.86 (4 rounds)
Sebastian Munoz +1.86 (4 rounds)
Matt Wallace +1.86 (4 rounds)
Dylan Frittelli +1.65 (4 rounds)
Tommy Fleetwood +1.63 (8 rounds)
Collin Morikawa +1.63 (8 rounds)
*Please note that this is an extremely small sample size. Golfers with tournament experience at this week's course have either played it just once or twice between the 2019 and 2021 season.
*33 of the 78 golfers in this week's ZOZO field will be playing Narashino CC for the first time.