Inform your Tokyo 2020 Olympics golf predictions with the expert insight from Sophie Walker. Read on to discover who could be in the running to win medals.
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Tokyo 2020: Golf schedule
Thursday, July 29 - Sunday, August 1: Men's tournament
Wednesday, August 4 - Saturday, August 7: Women's tournament
How will the golf events work at Tokyo 2020?
There will be 60 players in each of the Men’s and Women’s tournaments. Qualification is based upon the Official Golf World Ranking (OWGR) in both the Men’s and Women’s categories. The top 15 players in the world from both genders automatically qualify, with a limit of four players per country (the US and South Korea currently have more than four men and women respectively inside the top 15).
After the top 15 qualification spots have been taken, the highest-ranked players from countries that do not already have two players qualified will also qualify. The format is 72 holes, individual stroke play.
Tokyo 2020 golf events: The course
The East Course at Kasumigaseki Country Club is the host venue for this year's Games. Tom and Logan Fazio completed a redesign that included the removal of double greens (a feature of Japanese golf courses to combat extreme weather conditions). The parkland course is a par 71 and measures 7,466 yards. The course is said to be generous off the tee and has large bunkers and many elevated bent grass greens.
There have been no major tour events held at the course but it has hosted four Japan Opens and many amateur events. The 2010 Asian Amateur was won by Hideki Matsuyama (2021 Masters champion) on this course.
Tokyo 2020 Men's golf tournament: Contenders and notable outsiders
Let’s start with the Men's tournament. Unlike the Rio 2016 event, which was not taken seriously by many players, a lot of the big names will be teeing up in Tokyo. The East Course has been compared to Quail Hollow and favours long hitters, which leads me to favour the following players for success.
Corey Conners justified his status as an outside bet for the Masters.
Rory McIlroy (12.500*) won’t be many people's favourite, but I get the impression he will thrive wearing the green of Ireland. His favourite course on the PGA Tour is Quail Hollow, winning the Wells Fargo Championship there three times. In fact, that tournament has been his only win in a somewhat subdued 2021 thus far.
McIlroy needs a kick-start to reigniting his game after all the hard work he has put into rebuilding his swing with his coach Pete Cowan. A change in scenery and the day-to-day life of the tour might just do that for him.
Collin Morikawa (9.740*) has won two out of the eight majors he has entered in his career. He won his first Open Championship in 2021, so could he also win his first Olympic medal?
I followed him at Royal St George’s and his performance was the closest I have ever seen to Tiger Woods. His mentality and golf were next-level. Morikawa leads on Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and his putting is turning around, and I can’t see the magic touch on the greens leaving him so soon after he his recent Open Championship victory.
Paul Casey (21.740*) embraces the opportunity to represent his country, so wearing the GB tracksuit will add an extra level to his game. Casey loves team golf; he cried at the Ryder Cup when he won his first point and he was in the victorious 1999 Walker Cup team. His form is good after recording a T15 at The Open Championship and he is second in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining nearly a shot on the field in every round he tees up in. I’m hoping for another medal for Team GB, just like in Rio 2016 when his friend Justin Rose won gold.
I followed Corey Conners (44.180*) around at Royal St George’s and was impressed. After a poor start, he fought back well in his second round and recorded a T15 despite a final round of 73.
I tipped Conners as my outside bet for The Masters and I have no reason not to do the same for the Olympics. The 36th-ranked player in the world ranks well in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and also gains on his putting. The East Course requires a player to hit many greens and Conners averages 70% of Greens in Regulation (ranking 10th). He is also 19th on the PGA Tour in scoring (70.012) and when you consider over half the players above him are not teeing up in Tokyo, he is worth looking at.
Tokyo 2020 Women's golf tournament: Contenders and notable outsiders
Inbee Park (10.240*) is the current Olympic champion. She loved the Olympic Games so much that she called her dog “Rio” and vowed to qualify for 2020 no matter what. This, by the way, is some feat as there are five Korean players in the top 15 of the world. She is currently third in the world and the second-highest ranked Korean player.
Matilda Castren is now 52nd in the world rankings, a huge jump from 935th this time last year.
If the Olympics had not been postponed Park would have struggled to qualify, a fact that is not lost on the Hall of Fame golfer. I feel Park has been gearing up for this event and she has prioritised it over regular LPGA events and majors, unlike any other golfer in the men and women’s game. The seven-time major winner is my favourite for the gold in Tokyo.
Jin Young Ko (10.320*) has a scoring average of 69.95 and has finished inside the top 10 in over half of her appearances on the LPGA Tour this season. Despite this, 2021 has been quiet by her standards. The top-ranked Korean has slipped to second in the rankings thanks to Nelly Korda’s win at the PGA Championship (a major). Ko reacted to this by winning on her next start at the Volunteers of America Classic. Ko has been a star player since the last Olympics and will be looking to win the gold medal like her idol Park.
Hannah Green (29.650*) takes representing her country at the Olympic Games seriously. Green has put herself through two weeks of quarantine in Australia and missed out on playing a major to tee up in Tokyo. With a scoring average of 70.00 and a major victory already under her belt, look out for this 24-year-old to add to Australia’s medal count.
Matilda Castren (26.040*) shot to fame by winning the LPGA Mediheal Championship 2021 and also won an event recently on the Ladies European Tour. The Solheim Cup (women’s version of the Ryder Cup) is held in September and Matilda was not eligible for the European side as she was not a member of the tour. The only way to become a member was to win a LET event.
In July, she returned home to Finland (the Gant Ladies Open) knowing that only a win would do and she did just that, shooting a final round of 68. This time last year the Finn was ranked 935th in the world, but has since massively risen to 52nd. Who knows what she can achieve in Tokyo but she will be fun to watch, I’m sure!
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