The Zozo Championship was introduced to the PGA Tour in 2019 as part of the Asian swing. Alongside the CJ Cup and the WGC HSBC Champions, this event is a chance for golf fans in the Far East to watch the best players on the PGA Tour in action. It’s also a very big event for the cream of Japanese golf as the tournament is co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour.
The first edition of the Zozo Championship took place at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club. The plan is for that to be the long term host of a tournament that has been well-backed in terms of prize money, fans and the quality of the field.
|2020||Sherwood Country Club||Patrick Cantlay|
|2019||Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club||Tiger Woods|
2020: Patrick Cantlay
The 2020 Asian swing of events on the PGA Tour had to be cancelled due to ongoing public health and travel restrictions. Fortunately, the Zozo Championship could be rescued by moving it temporarily to Sherwood Country Club in California. The new event did not work out for defending champion Tiger Woods who finished ahead of just a handful of players but it did provide a thrilling finish in which Patrick Cantlay surged up the leaderboard to win.
Cantlay came into the week feeling better about his game than he had for a while. His confidence steadily built over the first three days to the point where he felt he had a genuine chance of winning despite starting his final round four shots off the lead held by Justin Thomas. With his ball striking at such a level that he felt he could take on any shot, Cantlay just needed to follow up on the greens. He did exactly that during a round of 65 which was enough to sneak the win by one shot from Thomas and Jon Rahm.
This win was special for Cantlay as it was the culmination of a lot of work and came just an hour’s drive away from where he was born. He summed up his third PGA Tour win by saying, “I put in a lot of work and try to do the right things all the time, so when it all does come together, it’s really rewarding because it’s all that hard work paying off.”
2019: Tiger Woods
If the organisers of the Zozo Championship could have wished for two players to fill the top two positions of the inaugural tournament it would be Tiger Woods and Hideki Matsuyama. That is exactly what they got at Narashino Country Club. The only thing that was lacking was a bit more jeopardy in the final round but nobody in attendance on the Monday finish was disappointed to see Woods tie Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins.
Reaching the total of 82 wins was just the latest milestone in a career full of them for Woods. He has been there and done it repeatedly, amassing vast experience along the way. That experience helped him quickly get to grips with a new course and a new tournament, setting the first-round lead. It also helped him to maintain the pace and deal with rising levels of expectation and he kept himself out in front. Finally, it allowed him to remain calm and focused on the job at hand when heavy rain caused the abandonment of the second round and forced the 2019 Zozo Championship to a Monday finish.
He was not perfect throughout even the final round but Woods kept the mistakes to a minimum. That was crucial to ensure he did not open the door to Matsuyama even if the rest of the chasing pack was too far behind to threaten. Wearing his tradition red for a final round, Woods finished with a flourish courtesy of a birdie on the final hole en route to yet another piece of history as he became the first winner of this exciting new event.