Japan Welcomes PGA Tour Superstars, Odds Favor Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy

Posted on: October 22, 2019, 02:42h. 

Last updated on: October 22, 2019, 03:10h.

The PGA Tour is staying in Asia for another week. This time, the world’s best golfers are traveling to Chiba, Japan, for the ZOZO Championship.

PGA Tour Japan golf casino
Japan is abuzz with golf’s best players, who have arrived for the PGA Tour’s ZOZO Championship. (Image: Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

Justin Thomas won last week’s CJ Cup at Nine Bridges Golf Club on Jeju Island, South Korea. He enters this week’s PGA Tour event in Chiba as the betting favorite.

More than 5,400 miles away in Las Vegas, the Westgate SuperBook has JT at 7/1 to win the ZOZO Championship, held at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club. Thomas will face some added competition this week.

While he was winning in South Korea, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, and Jason Day were competing in the MGM Resorts The Challenge: Japan Skins game. The four-man showdown was held at Accordia, perhaps giving them a slight advantage this week.

McIlroy has the second shortest odds at 8/1, and Matsuyama next at 16/1. Day and Woods are longer, respectively at 30/1 and 40/1. A $100 bet and a Tiger victory would net $4,000. The winning over/under score proposition is at 262.5 strokes, which is 16.5 under par.

Stacked Field

The first PGA Tour event contested on Japanese soil will feature many of today’s top players. Eleven of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up.

Numerous major winners not already mentioned are also in the field, including Jordan Spieth (20/1), Adam Scott (25/1), Gary Woodland and Patrick Reed (30/1), and Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry (50/1).

Matsuyama, the world’s No. 27-ranked golfer, will unquestionably be the crowd favorite. Japan’s only other player in the Top 50 – Shugo Imahira at No. 52 – is also in the field, and will attract large crowds, too. He’s at 80/1.

Japan Casino Expansion

Golf is extremely popular in South Korea, with the country churning out many top players on both the PGA and LPGA tours. But the game is less prevalent in Japan – its most popular sports being sumo and martial arts, as well as baseball and soccer.

Matsuyama was a natural pick for the Japan skin game. Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts jumped at the chance to sponsor the event, as the casino giant is trying to woo the federal government in an effort to win one of Japan’s three forthcoming casino licenses.

Chiba City is one of eight areas interested in becoming home to one of the three multibillion-dollar integrated resorts (IR). MGM is committed to Osaka, another interested city, while Las Vegas Sands – considered the other frontrunner for licensure – is focused on Yokohama and Tokyo. Chiba is just 20 miles east of the Japanese capital, and 30 miles across the Tokyo Bay from Yokohama.

Reports surfaced a year ago this month that President Donald Trump might have lobbied Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to prefer Sands for licensure. Sands’ billionaire founder Sheldon Adelson was Trump’s largest donor in 2016, and spent the most money on GOP campaigns during the 2018 midterms.

Matsuyama played golf with Trump and Abe during the US president’s visit in November 2017.