GOLF

Gdula's Golf Simulations and Betting Picks: ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP

See how likely golfers are to convert a win at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in this week's no-cut event.

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which uses a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour).

The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit.

I run a second model that uses more granular strokes gained data, which allows me to very easily adjust for course fit. The results are averaged out.

I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks -- if any. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player to round out their samples. Data points are weighted more heavily toward recent performance.

Here are the most likely winners for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, according to the models, as well as their FanDuel Sportsbook win odds.

Golfer FanDuel
Salary
Win% Top-
10%
Made
Cut%
FanDuel
Sportsbook
Win
Odds
Xander Schauffele$11,90010.0%49.7%100.0%+650
Collin Morikawa$12,0006.1%38.6%100.0%+650
Will Zalatoris$11,4005.5%36.5%100.0%+1700
Joaquin Niemann$11,1004.7%34.1%100.0%+2000
Hideki Matsuyama$11,7003.9%32.3%100.0%+1200
Jhonattan Vegas$9,8003.8%29.6%100.0%+3300
Cameron Tringale$10,8003.5%27.6%100.0%+3500
Alex Noren$10,4003.4%26.1%100.0%+3500
Charley Hoffman$10,1003.3%26.6%100.0%+4100
Tommy Fleetwood$11,0003.2%27.3%100.0%+2200
Maverick McNealy$10,6002.7%25.7%100.0%+3500
Keegan Bradley$10,5002.6%24.5%100.0%+3600
Chris Kirk$9,5002.1%20.7%100.0%+6000
Carlos Ortiz$9,9002.1%21.0%100.0%+4300
Emiliano Grillo$10,0002.1%21.5%100.0%+3600
Matt Jones$8,7002.0%19.5%100.0%+8000
Ryan Palmer$9,4002.0%19.8%100.0%+6000
Lanto Griffin$9,5002.0%19.5%100.0%+6000
Luke List$9,3001.9%19.8%100.0%+6000
Erik van Rooyen$10,3001.9%20.4%100.0%+3600
Kyoung-hoon Lee$9,2001.7%19.4%100.0%+4100
Rickie Fowler$11,2001.5%17.6%100.0%+2800
Mackenzie Hughes$9,1001.5%16.9%100.0%+6500
Branden Grace$9,1001.5%16.0%100.0%+6500
Siwoo Kim$10,9001.4%17.8%100.0%+3500
C.T. Pan$9,7001.3%16.7%100.0%+4300
Matt Wallace$9,4001.2%16.2%100.0%+6000
Adam Schenk$9,3001.1%15.0%100.0%+6000
Garrick Higgo$8,9001.1%14.1%100.0%+8000
Doug Ghim$8,8001.1%14.6%100.0%+8000
Harry Higgs$8,9001.1%15.5%100.0%+6500
Pat Perez$8,6001.1%13.2%100.0%+9500
Brendan Steele$8,7001.0%13.2%100.0%+9500
Roger Sloan$8,4000.9%12.8%100.0%+12000
Tom Hoge$8,3000.8%11.1%100.0%+9500
Brendon Todd$8,8000.8%10.4%100.0%+9500
Sebastian Munoz$9,0000.8%11.6%100.0%+8000
Brandon Hagy$8,0000.8%12.1%100.0%+10000
Robert Streb$8,6000.8%11.5%100.0%+9500
Wyndham Clark$7,7000.8%11.5%100.0%+16000
Troy Merritt$8,3000.7%11.2%100.0%+9500
Tyler McCumber$7,0000.6%9.2%100.0%+26000
Kyle Stanley$7,8000.6%10.2%100.0%+18000
Andrew Putnam$8,2000.6%9.3%100.0%+13000
Henrik Norlander$9,0000.5%8.6%100.0%+6500
Sepp Straka$8,5000.5%7.7%100.0%+14000
Chesson Hadley$8,0000.5%8.5%100.0%+15000
Matthew NeSmith$8,1000.5%7.8%100.0%+11000


This week is headlined by two heavy favorites: Collin Morikawa (+650 on FanDuel Sportsbook) and Xander Schauffele (also +650). Morikawa has fallen from +550, which is noteworthy for sure. The sims much prefer Schauffele after accounting for his long-term form and course fit (distance should matter this week). Yes, Morikawa has converted wins at a much higher rate than Schauffele has, yet Schauffele is the better process play at the top. That being said, both rate out as overvalued in my win simulation model.

Will Zalatoris (+1700) and Joaquin Niemann (+2000) are basically just fair-value bets. Both are long drivers and have questionable putters at times. It's well within their range of outcomes to dominate this event tee-to-green to the point where their putting needs to be just slightly positive to win.

The real value comes in, per the model, comes in the mid-range: Jhonattan Vegas (+3300), Cameron Tringale (+3500), Alexander Noren (+3500), and Charley Hoffman (+4100) all rate out as positive expected value bets. Such a long list of positive value bets can be possible only because the model views Morikawa and Schauffele (and also Hideki Matsuyama [+1200]) as significantly overvalued.

Other plus-value bets in the model include Chris Kirk (+6000), Matt Jones (+8000), Ryan Palmer (+6000), Lanto Griffin (+6000), and Luke List (+6000). Again, it's rare to see this many options appear as undervalued, but it comes down to the discrepancy of how the model views the top three golfers relative to the rest of the field. If you're keyed in on any of the top three, then you'll probably want to stick to them with the bankroll and not also pepper the rest of the list.

For me, I'll be honing in on Niemann, Zalatoris, Tringale, Vegas, Hoffman, Kirk, and Jones.