For the second time in as many Summer Olympics – moreover, the second time since 1904 – we get to see some of the world’s best men’s and women’s golfers compete on the international stage representing their home countries in hopes of taking home some gold, silver, or bronze hardware. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the 2020 Summer Olympic golf tournament.
The Venue: The East Course at Kasumigaseki Country Club
Situated almost 30 miles from Tokyo and the Olympic Village, Kasumigaseki Country Club is a private members-only club that originally opened in 1929. Comprised of an East and a West Course, the Club has hosted a number Japan Opens, Japan Women’s Opens, Japan Amateurs, Japan Women’s Amateurs, and the 2010 Asian Amateur. At this Asain Amateur, an 18-year-old Hideki Matsuyama punched his first ticket to The Masters where, in 2011, he won low amateur honors. The club does have some questionable history, though. They did not admit women as members until 2017 when the club caved to pressure from the International Olympic Committee after the latter threatened to move the Tokyo 2020 tournament. At almost 7,500 yards for the men and 6,700 yards for the women, the course will present a challenge to those seeking Olympic glory.
The Format: Tournament-Style
Simply put, both the men and women will be competing in a format with which they are all comfortable. Although alternative formats were in consideration for Tokyo 2020, the eventual decision was to stick with what works. Each country may send up to four players maximum for the event. Those players will then compete in a four-round tournament with no cut. The first two rounds will feature groups as chosen ahead of time, and then the latter two will tee off according to the cumulative score. Simple and straightforward.
The Field: Who’s In and Who’s Out?
Let’s just say that, as of this writing, things have gotten very interesting in the last couple of days. American Bryson DeChambeau was set to make his Olympic golf debut and was going through testing protocols before departing for Japan. As a result, he had to withdraw due to a positive COVID test from this screening and was quickly replaced by Patrick Reed, who will be competing in his second Olympics. Jon Rahm – who you may recall was forced to withdraw from The Memorial Tournament while in the lead due to a positive COVID test – has fallen victim to the same fate as Bryson. Having failed three consecutive PCR tests before heading to Japan, Rahm is not able to represent his home country of Spain. Unfortunately, due to the timing, Spain could not find a replacement golfer.
This leaves the men’s field at 59 players, while the women’s remained at 60 with no such COVID issues… *KNOCK ON WOOD*. Looking at the respective fields, there are many recognizable names and even more that may leave you typing their names into Google. The beautiful thing about golf is that anyone can get hot for three or four days and win a tournament. Even more so when the pride of representing your home country is on the line. Once that first tee shot hits the first fairway, it’s on.
The Predictions: Olympic Glory Awaits
It’s pretty difficult to handicap the field when there’s such an array of talent up and down the list. You’d think the big names should dominate, but what about local knowledge? Perhaps there’s course experience in the field that could help propel someone to the podium that we least expect? Should we ride the hot hands? At the 2016 Summer Olympic s in Rio, each of the respective podiums looked like the top of a leaderboard at any given PGA and LPGA tournament. The men’s medalists were Justin Rose (Great Britain – gold), Henrik Stenson (Sweden – silver), and Matt Kuchar (USA – bronze), and the women’s were Inbee Park (South Korea – gold), Lydia Ko (New Zealand – silver), and Shanshan Feng (China – bronze). Should we trust that? Here’s what I think.
Prediction Number One: Local Knowledge
In my opinion, we will see at least one medalist from the host country of Japan. Hideki Matsuyama obviously has intimate knowledge of the course and is in the top 20 of the world rankings, so he is a solid bet to perform well. Nasa Hataoka is in the top 15 for the women and she, too, has a great chance to perform well in her home country.
Prediction Number Two: Same Song, Second Verse
I also believe we will see a repeat medalist on the women’s side (none of the three men’s medalists from the 2016 Olympic golf tournament are competing this year). Specifically, watch out for Inbee Park. She could find her way up there very easily.
Prediction Number Three: South Korean Women Show Up Big
This leads me to my next prediction, that the South Korean women will have one medalist. Among the aforementioned Inbee Park, Jin Young Ko, Sei Young Kim, and Hyo-Joo Kim, there’s a whole lot of top 10 talent in one country’s representatives and it will show at the end.
Prediction Number Four: USA Falls Just Short
My final prediction, which pains me to say, I don’t think the United States will have a medalist this year either from the men’s or women’s tournaments. The talent is there for both: Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed, Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson, and Jessica Korda reads like a who’s who of top golfers on the PGA and LPGA Tours. Literally. I just have a feeling that they’ll fall short in the end. If this happens, it will be because their competitors just played that much better. That said… I’d really love to be wrong.
Where to Watch
Tune in to the Golf Channel to watch the men’s tournament from July 28-31 and the women’s tournament from August 3-6. Check back here afterwards so we can see just how right I was with my predictions… or wrong. Go Team USA!
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