This week the pros will tee it up for the inaugural Zozo Championship. The event is traditionally held in Japan, but has been relocated to Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, CA due to the unprecedented mid-pandemic season. Although the tournament is typically low on golf fans’ radars, with the defending champion Tiger Woods in the field – gearing up for the highly-anticipated November Masters – Zozo will surely garner some attention.
Woods, who has not competed since the Winged Foot U.S. Open, anticipated scores to be quite low this weekend. In his pre-tournament press conference, Woods noted that recent renovations to make Sherwood more “member friendly” will provide ample birdie opportunities for the field. With the ongoing effort by players such as Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, and Brooks Koepka to push the limits of driving distance, Zozo will certainly create a spectacle.
The Jack Nicklaus design is short for a par-72, measuring up to 7,073 yards long. The course is beautifully morphed into the natural and hilly surrounding landscape. Sherwood’s tree complex – composed of oaks, willows, and sycamores – creates a breathtaking line to every fairway, while simultaneously challenging players off the tee. Check out this video from Abraham Ancer’s Instagram, a perfect display of the course’s tight tree-lined design.
Sherwood is a familiar setting for victory for Woods. From 2000-2013 the California course hosted Woods’ own event, the Hero World Challenge. Out of the 12 times Woods played in the tournament during those years, he won five of them. Woods’ acquaintance with Sherwood will be the perfect preparation for the high-stakes Masters, only a short three weeks away.
Another player who knows the track well is Matthew Wolff, whose mother lives only ten minutes away. The California native noted that he has been playing Sherwood since he was about 12-years-old. Although he had a tough week at the CJ Cup, shooting 80 during his first round, the 21-year-old has had an electric season so far this summer.
After taking second place at the U.S. Open and a T2 finish at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open, Wolff could easily be at the top of the leaderboard going into this weekend. Interestingly enough, Wolff and Woods are grouped together for the first two rounds: a must-watch pairing.
This week’s field is stacked with marquee players, however there are a few big names that will be absent from the pack. Adam Scott withdrew from the event due to a positive COVID-19 test result which he received on Wednesday morning. Early on in the tour’s reopening stages, Scott voiced his concerns about the pandemic protocols, stating that he thought they could have been more stringent. Dustin Johnson will also be missing from the field this week, after withdrawing from the CJ Cup with a positive COVID-19 test as well.
Overall, the Zozo Championship should be an excellent venue for Masters preparation for both the older players like Phil Mickelson and Woods, as well as Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, and the rest of the new young-gun class on the PGA Tour.