07/26/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/26/2021 17:40
If competing for a major championship 'only' four times in a calendar year feels infrequent, consider that there have been 19 majors contested since the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro five years ago. Of course, until the 2016 Games, it had been 112 years since golf previously was included in the Olympics, and the Masters and PGA Championship hadn't yet existed. Furthermore, the originally scheduled 2020 Games were delayed a year by the pandemic, a phrase to which we've all become accustomed.
While participation in the Olympics is the rarest of all premier competitions, there are nine golfers in the field who are now two-time Olympians, including PGA TOUR members Patrick Reed of the United States, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei and Anirban Lahiri of India. The others are Thomas Pieters of Germany, Ryan Fox of New Zealand, Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay, Gavin Kyle Green of Malaysia and Ashun Wu of China. Of the nine, Pieters came closest to medaling in Rio in 2016; he finished fourth and four strokes back of bronze medalist Matt Kuchar. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson claimed gold and silver, respectively.
The East Course at Kasumigaseki CC is a par 71 with four par 3s and three par 5s. It's located about 25 miles northwest of Tokyo. Its history dates back more than 90 years, but it was renovated recently by Tom Fazio and his son, Logan. It now tips at 7,447 yards with bentgrass greens averaging 7,800 square feet. Those are sizable, but like many larger putting surfaces on inland tracks, they are defended with strategic undulations.
Unlike the host course in Rio, which made possible an eagle-birdie-eagle finish to complete the competition for a medal, the birdie-eagle-birdie flourish is in play at Kasumigaseki, but that comes with two stingy qualifiers. First, the par-4 17th is 343 yards, so it'd have to set up as drivable in the finale to yield the realistic likelihood of a 2. Second, the par-4 last is 500 yards, so a walk-off par could feel like birdie with the weight of the medal on the line before the weight of the medal is on the neck.
The Olympics is a standard 72-hole contest from Thursday through Sunday. There is no cut. With unfamiliar putting surfaces and slow, soft turf expected, ball-striking likely will correlate to success and to establish history. Another benefit is unquantifiable; that is, there are only so many in the field who have played in and thrived under the pressure of a moment this transformational. That said, it's worth reiterating that all are pursuing their first Olympics medal.
Like many of the sports in the Olympics, golf is conducted outside, so weather can impact performance. Rain and storms cannot be ruled out during any round. Warm, juicy air will dominate. Winds will be moderate at worst.
The Olympics is not included in the FedExCup, but it's an official event on the European Tour, so the champion will be credited with an official win. Official World Golf Ranking points also will be distributed. Because the strength-of-field rating as determined by the OWGR will be greater than 115 - it is 319 as of Monday - the gold medalist will qualify for next week's World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational if not already exempt.
ROB BOLTON'S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM's Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.