Cameron Smith … Sure, it feels like cheating to circle the 51st-ranked golfer in the world who advanced to the TOUR Championship in early September and has opened 2020-21 by going 3-for-3 with top 25s in his last two starts, but the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD is limited to 78 golfers, so his position as a Sleeper is more relative than usual and he deserves the attention. If you agreed to split hairs, consider that the Aussie hasn’t recorded a top 10 since hoisting the hardware at the Sony Open in Hawaii nine months ago.
Joel Dahmen … With 100 PGA TOUR starts under his belt, he’s among the throng that appreciate the mountain that Jason Kokrak finally conquered at THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK on Sunday. It’s rare for a first-time winner to emerge in a limited-field invitational with no cut. The last was Russell Knox at the 2015 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions the week after Justin Thomas broke through at the now-defunct CIMB Classic. Dahmen’s impressive form over time supports his inclusion on the short list of the non-winners in our crosshairs week over week.
Ryo Ishikawa … Time passes more quickly for some than for others. Even if you’ve been a fan of the PGA TOUR for a minute, it still might surprise you that he hasn’t possess status since the 2016-17 season, the last of five consecutive with a card. It also might come as a shock that he’s 29 years old and a veteran of 151 starts. Nevertheless, the once can’t-miss prospect from Japan arrives having just finished T3 at the Japan Open Golf Championship with a field-low 65 in the final round. His astounding 17 victories on his home circuit include three in 2019.
Takumi Kanaya … It’s not often when a PGA TOUR non-member wedges his way into this select grouping twice in six tournaments, but he’s not just any PGA TOUR non-member. While he missed the cut at the U.S. Open, it’s merely a matter of time before he’s a fixture on the world stage. Already 218th in the Official World Golf Ranking thanks in part to a solo seventh in his professional debut at the Japan Open Golf Championship on Sunday, the 22-year-old also is a winner on the Japan Golf Tour. That title helped propel him to the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Gunn Charoenkul … If you read my Father’s Day special about how becoming a father influences performance inside the ropes, then his progression to the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD makes sense. He learned that his wife, Koyy, was pregnant in mid-2019. She delivered the couple’s first child in February of this year. In the interim and since the birth, the first-time father converted 18 top-15 finishes worldwide, including in all of his most recent eight starts. The most recent was a co-runner-up in his native Thailand two months ago.
NOTE: Sleeper is a relative term, so Rob uses unofficial criteria to determine who qualifies. Each of the following usually is determined to be ineligible for this weekly staple: Winners of the tournament on the current host course; winners in the same season; recent major champions; top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking; recent participants of team competitions.
Source: PGA tour