It’s go time in Tokyo. The USA team is ready to compete for gold and to be completely honest, our team is stacked. Collin Morikawa was just crowned the Champion Golfer of the Year, Justin Thomas is one of the most electric players in golf, Xander Schauffele is nearly a Top 10 lock every time he steps on a tee box, and Patrick Reed is Captain America.
I hope Bryson is feeling okay after testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, and was forced to WD. Wishing for a speedy recovery.
Here’s a full list of players in the field, and the country they will be playing for…
Cameron Smith (28)
Marc Leishman (43)
Matthias Schwab (118)
Sepp Straka (174)
Thomas Detry (94)
Thomas Pieters (107)
Corey Conners (36)
Mackenzie Hughes (63)
Joaquin Niemann (31)
Mito Pereira (146)
Carl Yuan (291)
Ashun Wu (315)
C.T. Pan (181)
Sebastian Munoz (67)
Ondrej Lieser (231)
Rasmus Hojgaard (121)
Joachim B. Hansen (151)
Kalle Samooja (117)
Sami Valimaki (122)
Antoine Rozner (78)
Roman Langasque (186)
Maximilian Kieffer (193)
Hurly Long (263)
Paul Casey (20)
Tommy Fleetwood (33)
Anirban Lahiri (340)
Udayan Mane (356)
Rory McIlroy (10)
Shane Lowry (42)
Guido Migliozzi (72)
Renatro Paratore (180)
Hideki Matsuyama (16)
Rikuya Hoshino (76)
Gavin Kyle Green (286)
Abraham Ancer (23)
Carlos Ortiz (53)
Ryan Fox (178)
Viktor Hovland (14)
Kristian K. Johannessen (292)
Fabrizio Zanotti (280)
Juvic Pagunsan (216)
Adrian Meronk (189)
Rafael Campos (281)
Rory Sabbatini (167)
Garrick Higgo (38)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (46)
Sungjae Im (26)
Si Woo Kim (49)
Adri Arnaus (147)
Alex Noren (95)
Henrik Norlander (136)
Jazz Janewattananond (129)
Gunn Charoenkul (259)
Justin Thomas (3)
Collin Morikawa (4)
Xander Schauffele (5)
Patrick Reed (9)
Jhonattan Vegas (130)
Scott Vincent (239)
The pair from South Korea will be playing for more than just a medal. If Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim are able to finish in the Top 3, they will be exempt from mandatory military service. K.H Lee and Sung Kang, both from South Korea and PGA Tour members, have already earned exemption due to gold medal wins at the Asian Games (K.H Lee in 2010, Kang in 2006).
Kasumigaseki Country Club
Jazz Janewattananond compared the golf course to TPC Southwind (home to the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invt) due to grass type and weather.
Front 9 Flyover (from course’ site)
Back 9 Flyover
There is a typhoon expected to hit Tokyo before the men tee off Thursday, don’t worry though, it’s not too serious. But it does mean the course will be pretty wet once the tournament gets underway. That may effect some picks.
For obvious reasons, we don’t have a bunch of info about this track. The last time a substantial event was held here, Hideki won the Asian Am in 2010.
I expect accuracy off the tee to be important this week. During the first playing of the ZOZO back in 2019, you needed to hit fairways. They were mostly tree-lined, so you had to find the short grass.
On top of that, ball-striking is always important. Iron play is key when you get to this level of golf.
Quick note: all 3 medalists in 2016 were +2000 or lower. This event is likely gonna come down to the favorites.
Players to watch…
Because it’s the Olympics, we have to bet on the Americans. No way around it. Of course we’re gonna include other players on the card, but it would be disrespectful to our boys not to put at least one of them on the card.
The only thing that seems clear to me heading into this week, is that Patrick Reed will make a push towards the podium. He’s also the only player on our squad that was at the Olympics in 2016
His SG numbers over his last 24 rounds look pretty damn good
Back in 2019 at the ZOZO, Patrick finished T17.
His nickname is Captain America for a reason, and I expect him to represent proudly.
I really think Collin Morikawa could follow up his Claret Jug performance with a gold medal, but at +700 it’s tough to put any action on him. BTW, if he does win gold in Tokyo, is he already a Hall of Fame player?
Xander Schauffele has yet to have his big win on Tour. Yes, he won the Tour Championship. That’s a 30 man field, and he didn’t win the FedEx. Yes, he won a WGC. But it’s the smallest one.
In his last 6 solo starts, Xander has 5 Top 15 finishes (T26 at the Open in his last start).
His SG numbers over his last 24…
At the ZOZO in 2019, Xander finished T10.
Again, at +900 is gonna be tough to put any action on him. But I like his chances to metal, has the consistent game to compete anywhere in the world.
The last man representing the US, JT. In his last 5 starts, Justin Thomas has 3 finishes T40 or worse, including the last time he teed it up (T40 at the Open).
It’s been his putter. It’s been his putter his whole career. When he’s rolling it, you might has well chalk up a Top 10 for JT that week. If he’s not, we’re gonna be on cut watch. His SG numbers over his last 24 reflect that…
Yes, when your ball-striking is incredible, your SG: Putting number is, probably, not gonna be that great. But for it to be this low, he’s losing strokes on the green.
If his Scotty cooperates this week, I think he has a pretty good chance of getting on the podium. He’s probably the American I’m rooting hardest for. He’s one of the faces of American golf, and I think it’d be awesome if he took home gold.
For our first player outside of the states, I think I gotta go with Ab Ancer.
His recent finishes in majors weren’t great. He missed the cut at Torrey, and finished outside the Top 50 at Royal St. Georges. But in his last 5 regular Tour stops he’s finished: T18 (RBC Heritage), 5th (Valspar), 2nd (Wells Fargo), T14 (Charles Schwab), and 4th (Travelers). Also had a Top 10 at the PGA.
He’s the model of consistency when it comes to the golf game. 7th on Tour in FIR, and 23rd in GIR. He’s also rolling it. Over his last 24 rounds, he’s 6th in SG: Putting.
Full SG numbers over his last 24…
He stepped up during the Presidents Cup for the International Team, now it’s time to step up for his home country of Mexico.
Corey Connors is another guy that could pull a bit of an upset and medal this week.
He’s not on the same run he was on late last year and this spring, but he does have 3 Top 20 finishes over his last 5 starts.
He plays an incredibly consistent type of golf, as he’s 11th on Tour this season in both FIR and GIR.
The only part not clicking. His putter. SG isn’t calculated at the Open Championship, but in 5 of 6 events leading up to the last major of the year, Connors lost strokes on the green.
His ball-striking and tee to green play is good enough to compete with any field, his putter will have to heat up this week if he wants any chance.
Bets for the Men’s 2020 Olympics
Mackenzie Hughes – Top 20 (+125, DraftKings)
Paul Casey – Top 5 (+230, DraftKings)
Rory McIlroy – Top 5 (+230, DraftKings): On the show this week I said I wasn’t gonna bet on Rory. He doesn’t sound very enthusiastic to be there, and his game seems to be close but is still making too many mistakes. But guess what? I’m ready to be hurt again. LET’S GO.
Justin Thomas – Top 5 (+210, DraftKings)
Corey Connors – Top 10 (+200, DraftKings)
Patrick Reed – Top 10 (+120, DraftKings): Yes, I know there’s a lot going against this pick. Not his normal caddie. No practice round. Jet lag. I don’t care. I couldn’t care less. This dude LOVES representing the USA, so I’m riding with him.
Cover via GolfChannel.com (Getty Images)