Gdula's Golf Simulations: The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP

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

I'll keep it simple: I track weekly results from the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour.

Using a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers, I adjust each golfer's score relative to the field. 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.

Their adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing the event out thousands of times.

Here are the results for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.

Top Win Odds

Rory McIlroy9.7%+800Justin Thomas8.8%+750
Adam Scott4.3%+2200Hideki Matsuyama3.7%+1800
Xander Schauffele3.4%+2000Paul Casey3.1%+2200
Shane Lowry2.8%+4500Louis Oosthuizen2.2%+4000
Jordan Spieth2.1%+2200Jason Kokrak2.1%+7000
Tony Finau2.0%+3000Adam Hadwin1.9%+4500
Gary Woodland1.9%+2800Tommy Fleetwood1.7%+2500
Chez Reavie1.7%+6600Viktor Hovland1.7%+2800
Ryo Ishikawa1.6%+12500Billy Horschel1.6%+5000
Collin Morikawa1.5%+3000Patrick Reed1.5%+2500
Tiger Woods1.5%+3000Byeong Hun An1.5%+4000
Matthew Fitzpatrick1.5%+3500Shugo Imahira1.5%+8000
Andrew Putnam1.5%+6600Jason Day1.4%+3000
Ryan Moore1.2%+5000Joaquin Niemann1.2%+4500
Rory Sabbatini1.1%+8000Max Homa1.1%+30000
Sungjae Im1.1%+3500Rafa Cabrera Bello1.1%+4000
Corey Conners1.0%+5000Kevin Kisner1.0%+5000
Marc Leishman1.0%+4000JT Poston0.9%+10000

The win equity between Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas is tough to ignore, but there isn't enough value to consider betting them unless you're rounding out your card with a lot of long shots. It's not the worst idea if you can swing it. However, no-cut events should make us gravitate more toward studs than dark horses.

Adam Scott is priced appropriately this week, though I'm going to ignore the simulations a bit and prioritize Xander Schauffele and Paul Casey. Schauffele has three no-cut wins to his name, and Casey has been playing good golf on the European Tour of late -- and is an accurate golfer who should be able to pick apart this new course. Starting the card lower with Xander or Casey makes sense this week, so that's my preference.

Tommy Fleetwood and Gary Woodland both pop with positive expected value, as does Shane Lowry. Fleetwood and Woodland pair well with a more balanced betting card if you avoid the chalk (McIlroy and Thomas) and prioritize the second tier -- or even just start here.

Chez Reavie and Matthew Fitzpatrick grade out differently in terms of expected value -- with Reavie being overpriced -- but each are names I want pieces of this week. Reavie leads the field in accuracy over the past 50 rounds, according to FantasyNational, and Fitzpatrick has great adjusted strokes gained splits, according to datagolf.

Two longer names that pop for me in the simulations are Kevin Kisner and Ian Poulter, proving that there's value all across the board this week.

I'd be remiss if I did not point out that Shugo Imahira and Ryo Ishikawa each rank top-13 in adjusted stroke average since August. They play primarily in Japan, and Ishikawa in particular seems like a strong punt play in a field in which there aren't many.