Golf is making its second consecutive appearance in the Olympic Games in Japan after breaking a lengthy absence with the 2016 event in Rio de Janeiro. The individual, 72-hole stroke play tournament has a field of 59 players from 30 countries, with the top three finishers winning the gold, silver, and bronze medals.
The original field was comprised of 60 players, but Spain’s Jon Rahm had to withdraw due to Covid-19 protocols and wasn’t replaced in the field. Bryson DeChambeau of the United States faced the same circumstances but instead had his spot taken by Patrick Reed, who has also met the qualifying criteria. Reed’s entry kept his country as the best represented with four players, double that of the 21 nations that each have two players competing.
No spectators will be allowed due to Covid-19 protocols, depriving Japanese citizens from cheering on national hero and reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, currently ranked 16th in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR). He’ll be joined on the Japanese team by Rikuya Hoshino because the host country is guaranteed two spots in the tournament.
…recent Open Championship winner and fifth player in the OWGR Collin Morikawa is the betting favorite at +700…
The Olympic Host Course
The tournament will be played at one of the premier layouts in Japan, the par 71, 7,447 yard East Course of the Kasumigaseki Country Club, located about an hour outside of Tokyo. Famed architect Tom Fazio led a re-design effort in 2016 to ready the course for the Olympics in a country where golf is as popular as anywhere in the world.
American golfers hold the top three positions in the betting odds, led by recent Open Championship winner and fifth player in the OWGR Collin Morikawa at +700, followed by third-ranked Justin Thomas and fourth-ranked Xander Schauffele at +900. Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, representing Ireland and tenth in the OWGR, is at +1100.
Matsuyama has odds of +1200 and is joined at that figure by Norwegian star Viktor Hovland. Great Britain’s Paul Casey is at +1600, and Patrick Reed, the ninth player in the OWGR is at +1800, but the former Masters champion didn’t get much notice, and it’s doubtful he’ll have much time to prepare.
There will be three new medalists in the 2020 Games, with none of the players, including gold medal winner Justin Rose, that made it to the podium in 2016 is present in Japan. It’s difficult to pick against Morikawa, who is quickly establishing himself as a big event player in the class of Brooks Koepka and, dare we say it, Tiger Woods.
Hovland, 11th in the OWGR, hasn’t broken out on the world stage as of yet, but he should be in the hunt entering the final round and has a good chance at a medal, if not the gold. The 23-year-old has a pair of wins on the PGA Tour and is currently ninth in the FedEx Cup point standings.
The sentimental pick has to be the affable and popular Matsuyama, who became the first Asian man to win a major championship with his Masters’ victory in April. The lack of a big crowd could actually work to his advantage, allowing him to focus on the golf and not the fans.