Golf picks: ZOZO Championship predictions & best bets from Diane Knox Balas

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Diane Knox Balas


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Diane Knox Balas loves golf (she’s Scottish, so of course she does) but let’s just say she’s much better at analyzing golf than playing! The same cannot be said for her brother, Russell Knox, who’s a 2-time winner on the PGA Tour and fueled Diane’s initial passion for the sport. A seasoned TV and radio host, Diane has given out 8 outright winners since joining the Pickswise team in April 2022. Her general rule is she has to have three stand-out reasons for each pick and spends her time studying stats, playing form and little nuggets of information from golfers’ lives on Tour. Diane lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Garrett, son Greyson and two English Bulldogs Bowser & Barkley. You can follow her antics on Twitter @KnoxyDiane and Instagram @dianeknoxbalas. For Diane Knox Balas media enquiries, please email
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Oh, Patrick Cantlay…. We came so close to getting our second outright winner of this new PGA Tour season, but…alas…a wayward tee shot on the 72nd hole followed by a failed attempt to get the ball back in play from a thorny bush and a Hail Mary struck straight into the water literally sunk our chances. Give him his dues; he did sink the 35-foot putt for triple-bogey, but…wow, talk about drama.

That’s twice already this season that it has all unraveled for the leader on the final hole (remember Danny Willett 3-putting from 4 feet in Napa?), but you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face as 20-yea-old Tom Kim went bogey-free in Vegas and captured his second PGA Tour title.

We did make a bit of money off my picks, as the runner-up finish for Matthew NeSmith cashed my top-20 bet at +300. I’m just mad at myself for not tipping him for a top 5!

At 11:00 pm on Sunday night, the charter flight to Japan took off from Vegas — bound for the ZOZO Championship. This is the fourth iteration of this smaller-field, no-cut event, and last year’s champion — Japan’s own Hideki Matsuyama — will try to defend his title much to the delight of the local fans. A total of 78 players will tee it up on Thursday to play all four rounds, also headlined by Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa, who both have deep family connections to Japan and make this tournament a priority.

The ZOZO has been played twice in Japan (Matsuyama and Tiger Woods were the winners) and in 2020 it was played in California — where Cantlay won. Matsuyama also finished runner-up in 2019 behind Woods.

If you want to watch the action live, it’s on Golf Channel on Thursday night from 11:00 pm until 3:00 am EST…or record it and watch while you’re having breakfast on Friday!

Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club: What you need to know

It’s back to Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club for the third time. The course is a par 70 measuring 7,079 yards. Around 40 yards have been added for the tournament this year.

It’s a short, tight course with a lot of angles to navigate. The PGA Tour offer limited stats for the tournament, but the course favors accuracy over length, putting a premium on great greens in regulation and putting. Matsuyama also led the field in scrambling on his way to victory in 2021.

This is a fantastic parkland golf course with large, sloping greens and tree-lined fairways. Actually, every hole on the course has two greens — making for a lot of variety in the setup.

Knox’s Knockout ZOZO Championship picks

Tom Kim (+1600 at BetMGM)

Following that flawless performance in Vegas last week, Kim is top of my picks for the ZOZO. He’s a shorter hitter and hardly missed a fairway last week, which will be vital this week in Japan. Plus, his relationship with new caddie Joe Skovron — Rickie Fowler’s ex-looper — looks like it’s a great asset to Kim’s evolving game. A superstar in the making, I can’t wait to see what he does this week.

Tommy Fleetwood (+3500 at DK Sportsbook)

I always love seeing Fleetwood’s name in the field, and after playing on the DP World Tour over the past few months he is making his return to the PGA Tour. There have been no big finishes since his back-to-back T4s at the Scottish Open and The Open, but a T7 finish here last year has to fill him with some confidence as he touches down in Japan to play this course for the third time.

Tom Hoge (+4000 at DK Sportsbook)

Hoge had an incredible week at the Shriners, finishing T4 overall, 4th tee-to-green and 2nd in approach. He also ended up 12th at the Fortinet a few weeks ago, giving him a strong start to the season. At 35th in the OWGR, Hoge is really trending upward. His accuracy and greens in reg stats are solid, and I like his game around this course — where he had a great weekend last year and jumped up to finish in 17th place.

Matt Wallace (+10000 at FanDuel)

My long-shot for the week is Wallace, who is coming off a T28 at the Shriners and a T21 at the Fortinet. Pretty strong play so far this season, but Wallace also finished T4 at the ZOZO last year at this course. Tee-to-green, the Englishman is sitting just outside the top-20 on the tour, and he is top 5 around the green — a stat that helped Matsuyama win last year. Wallace regained his PGA Tour card after the LIV guys were removed from the standings, and he seems to be making the most of the opportunity.

We’ll have Golf picks and predictions for EVERY event in the 2022-23 PGA Tour season!

ZOZO Championship Prop Bets

Hideki Matsuyama top 5 (+275 at Bet365)

I have to put Matsuyama somewhere on my list after winning on this course last year and finishing runner-up in 2019. I expect Japan’s golfing hero to do well once again. The crowd and the local media will be 100% behind him and it’s pretty special to watch.

Andrew Putnam top 10 (+300 at DK Sportsbook)

Putnam has started the season with some strong play, finishing T12 last week at the Shriners. I feel he played better than he scored in the other 2 events. He is 24th in greens in reg this season and 29th in putting. Putnam also played in the previous 2 ZOZOs held at this course, so has some knowledge before the week begins.

Sam Ryder top 10 (+1100 at Bet365)

Ryder had a pretty good week in Vegas, minus a few bad shots coming down the stretch on Sunday. He also likes this course, finishing T7 at Accordia last year. Ryder is also 24th in putting for the season, which will bode well this week (and every week!). I feel good about where his game is on a course he played well on previously.

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