Multiple PGA Tour pros have chance at history at ZOZO Championship in Japan

Multiple PGA Tour pros have chance at history at ZOZO Championship in Japan

Three players who have never won on the PGA Tour are atop the ZOZO Championship leaderboard through 54 holes.

Justin Suh leads by a stroke, while Beau Hossler and Eric Cole are tied for second at 8-under.

Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa, meanwhile, is lurking at 7-under.

Suh, the 26-year-old who played collegiately at the University of Southern California, carded a 3-under 67 on Saturday.

A long birdie putt at the 16th hole propelled him into the lead.

This is Suh’s first full season on the PGA Tour after he won the 2022 Korn Ferry Championship. He hopes that experience will help him the rest of the way in Japan.

“I think the experience of the Korn Ferry was huge, and I think throughout this year I’ve put myself in this position a few times in some big tournaments,” Suh said after his round. “Every week you put yourself in this position, you learn a little piece of it.”

Indeed, Suh tied for fifth at the Honda Classic in February and then finished in a tie for sixth at the Players Championship in March.

But those were his last two top-10 finishes in 2023.

Currently, Suh is ranked 81st in the FedEx Cup standings, so a win in Japan—or a top-3 finish—will vault him up into the top 60, which would do wonders for his young career.

“Just a shot at a time, I think that’s the most important,” Suh said on what he needs to do on Sunday. “Just kind of be aware of myself, aware of the conditions. I think that’s kind of all you can do.”

Justin Suh, PGA Tour, ZOZO Championship

Justin Suh tees off on the 8th hole during the third round of the 2023 ZOZO Championship.
Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/Getty Images

Those players ranked between 51st and 60th at the end of the FedEx Cup Fall gain entry into The Sentry and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the first two signature events of the 2024 PGA Tour season.

Hossler is trying to get into those events, too. He held the 36-hole lead on Friday but carded a 1-under 69 on Saturday.

He is also looking for his first victory on tour.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Hossler said of the upcoming round on Sunday.

“There’s a lot of good players right there. This golf course can give you birdies quickly and take away bogeys very quickly as well. So I’m just going to try and stay patient as best as I can. The key out here is absolutely to get the ball in the fairway because playing out of this Zoysia rough, you just have no clue what it’s going to do.”

Players have discussed the importance of finding the fairways off the tee all week.

Yet, Cole, who, like Hossler, is 8-under, has found the short grass just 46.1% of the time so far this week at the ZOZO Championship.

Eric Cole, PGA Tour, ZOZO Championship

Eric Cole on the 18th green during the 2023 ZOZO Championship.
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Instead, the 35-year-old Cole relies on his exquisite ball striking and short game to make birdies.

Only Suh and Morikawa have made more birdies than Cole so far this week.

“Overall, it’s a good day,” Cole said of his third round. “You know, 66 on Saturday on the PGA Tour is pretty good. I obviously would have liked to finish a little better, but I think I’m in a decent position. Hopefully, come out swinging tomorrow morning.”

Cole came oh so close at the Honda Classic, where he lost to Chris Kirk in a playoff. He has overcome so much over the years, but he is now in the top 50 of the FedEx Cup standings.

Get used to seeing Cole more often in 2024.

And you should familiarize yourself with Suh and Hossler too.

Each of these three guys can play, and the final round of the ZOZO Championship should be nothing short of entertaining.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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