If participating in a major championship “only” feels rare four times in a calendar year, consider that there have been 19 majors since the last Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro five years ago. Of course, by the 2016 Games, it was 112 years since golf had previously been accepted into the Olympics, and the Masters and PGA championships hadn’t yet existed. In addition, the games originally scheduled for 2020 have been postponed for a year by the pandemic, a sentence we’ve all got used to.
Although participation in the Olympics is the rarest of all leading competitions, there are nine golfers in the field who are now two Olympians, including PGA TOUR member Patrick Reed from the United States, Jhonattan Vegas from Venezuela, CT Pan from Chinese Taipei and Anirban Lahiri of India. The others are Thomas Pieters from Belgium, Ryan Fox from New Zealand, Fabrizio Zanotti from Paraguay, Gavin Kyle Green from Malaysia and Ashun Wu from China. Of the nine, Pieters came closest to the medal in 2016 in Rio; he finished fourth and four strokes behind bronze medalist Matt Kuchar. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson won gold and silver respectively.
The East Course at Kasumigaseki CC is a par 71 with four par 3s and three par 5. It is about 25 miles northwest of Tokyo. Its history dates back more than 90 years, but it was recently renovated by Tom Fazio and his son Logan. It now tilts to 7,447 yards with bentgrass greens averaging 7,800 square feet. These are considerable, but like many larger putting surfaces on inland lanes, they are defended with strategic waves.
In contrast to the host course in Rio, which made it possible to complete the competition for a medal with an eagle-birgel-eagle finish, the birdie-eagle-birdie flourish is at play in Kasumigaseki, but that goes hand in hand with two stingy qualifications . First, the 17th par-4 is 343 yards long, so it would have to be set so mobile in the final to achieve the realistic probability of a 2. Second, the par-4 final is 500 yards, so a walk-off par might feel like a birdie with the medal’s weight on the line before the medal’s weight is on the neck.
The Olympic Games are a standard 72-hole competition Thursday through Sunday. There is no cut. With unfamiliar putting surfaces and expected slow, soft turf, hitting the ball will likely correlate with success and make history. Another benefit is not quantifiable; that is, there are only a limited number of people in the field who will play along and thrive under the pressures of such a transformative moment. Still, it’s worth noting that everyone is pursuing their first Olympic medal.
Like many of the sports in the Olympics, golf is played outdoors, so weather can affect performance. Rain and storm cannot be ruled out during each lap. Warm, juicy air will dominate. The wind will be moderate in the worst case.
The Olympics are not included in the FedExCup, but it is an official event of the European Tour, so an official win will be credited to the champion. Official World Golf Ranking points will also be distributed. With the field strength set by the OWGR to be greater than 115 – 319 on Monday – the gold medalist will qualify for next week’s golf world championships – FedEx St. Jude Invitational, if not exempted.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton summarizes and previews each tournament from different angles. As planned, look for his following posts.
MONDAY: Power ranking
TUESDAY *: Sleeper; Fantasy insider
FRIDAY: change of line-up; Medical extensions
SUNDAY: qualification; Beginner watch
* – Rob serves on the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which will also be released on Tuesday.