July 29 – August 1, 2021
The field -only 60 competitors – is small by most regular professional tour event standards. Because it is an international event, there are a good number of players who will not be a factor. What this means is that any high-ranking player in this tournament has attractive odds of winning the gold medal. The one player who will be under the microscope this week is Hideki Matsuyama. He’s one of the faces of the games in Tokyo, and, the Japanese media is unrelenting. Despite breaking through in the Masters this year, I think it will be all too much for Hideki this week. If he does go on to win, it will be the story of the Olympics – but I can’t see it happening.
The golf course – Kasumigaseki – is not widely known so players are getting a first look this week during practice rounds. The course was built in the 1920s but has been re-designed by Tom Fazio. Brad Klein, a senior writer for the Golf Channel specializing in golf course architecture compared it to Quail Hollow, another Fazio design. It has very long par-5’s and big, deep bunkers, elevated greens, and Klein believes the course favors long hitters but not necessarily those who cut (left to right) their drives. A contrasting viewpoint was offered by Tommy Fleetwood, who thought it was unlike Quail Hollow in that it wasn’t as demanding off the tee. In fact, he compared it to Harbour Town where you don’t have to hit driver off every tee. Okay then, let’s just say there are divergent opinions on how this course sets up.
There will always be “courses for horses”, but these days the top-ranked golfers in the world can adjust their games to any type of course. With all of that in mind, here goes:
Who should win? – Collin Morikowa
He’s the hottest player in the game at the moment, can hit any shape off the tee, is the best iron player in the game, and has recently turned a weakness (putting) into a strength.
Who could win? – Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Abraham Ancer
If this course turns out to be Japan’s version of Quail Hollow – McIlroy could win this in a walk. He has been a major factor in the PGA Tour event at Quail Hollow for the past 10 years. Patrick Reed got in the field when Bryson DeChambeau dropped out due to Covid-19. Despite the absence of fans this week, Reed loves a big stage. Schauffele could win just because he’s so damn good and he’s due to win a big one. Ancer has been playing great for the last couple of years and his growing confidence could easily see him don the gold.
Who will win? – Corey Conners.
Conners has become a player who now looks like he expects to win major tournaments. He is a supreme ball-striker and is up there with the big boys in terms of top-10s and scoring average against the field. He just needs to putt better than average this week to win the gold.