The PGA Tour takes a rare in-season break this week, as players from around the globe head to Japan to battle it out for Olympic glory in Tokyo. Many of the biggest names in golf will gather at Kasumigaseki Country Club, which interestingly hasn’t been used for an event since hosting the 2010 Asian Amateur Championship, won by none other than Hideki Matsuyama.
Unlike regular PGA Tour events and the four majors, the Olympic golf tournament will be comprised of only 60 players. Big-name players include Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, and Paul Casey. Jon Rahm was set to feature in Tokyo, but he’s been forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID. The same can be said for Bryson DeChambeau, who will be replaced by world number nine Patrick Reed. The highest-ranked player at Kasumigaseki Country Club will be Justin Thomas, who is currently the world number three. None of the three podium finishers from the 2016 games in Rio, Brazil, will be defending their medals.
What’s the course like?
Kasumigaseki Country Club, which measures out at 7,466 yards, playing as par 72, is going to be something of an unknown quantity to most this week. It’s not a regular feature on the Japanese tour, nor has it been used for a prestigious competition of this nature since hosting the Asian Amateur Championship over a decade ago.
What we do know is that courses in Japan are not the easiest to navigate, or rather they’re not the most forgiving. Treacherous rough is commonplace, as are trees, meaning that accuracy off the tee is likely to be the order of the day. In addition, clever and accurate play with the irons is what is going to be required to tear it up this week.
Where’s the money going?
After his superb display at the Open Championship a few short weeks ago, Colin Morikawa is unsurprisingly well fancied by the market ahead of Thursday’s opening tee time in Tokyo. The historic making two-time major winner goes in as the +700 favorite. Fellow American Xander Schauffele, follows in the betting at +900, while Matsuyama, who has the advantage of not only playing but winning here in the past, albeit 11 years ago, comes next at +1200.
Hideki Matsuyama is easy to get behind this week. He’s an elite player with lots of experience playing in his homeland of Japan, so it would be a major surprise if he doesn’t go close, though we shouldn’t let the obvious positives surrounding Hideki cloud our vision too much. Overlooking the other Japanese player in the field may not be wise, as Rikuya Hoshino, who is currently ranked inside the world’s top 100 players at 86th, has performed to a high level on both the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour, winning in his homeland as recently as May. Hoshino is also adept at cutting it with the big boys, as he proved when finishing T26 at the US Open a little over five weeks ago.
So, who is a good bet this week? Are those at the top of the market hard to look past? Or can someone under the radar pop up and claim the gold? At the end of the day, there are lots of to like about those at the head of the market, as you would expect, but it’s worth noting that at the previous games in Rio, the three medal winners all started the week at odds of +2000 or bigger, so don’t be put off if you fancy someone at sizable odds. Below are a couple of plays at appealing odds.
1.5 units @ +1200
Japan native Hideki Matsuyama is impossible to resist this week. We’ve seen him beat the best this year when he played four rounds of outstanding golf at Augusta in April, and he now gets a rare chance to take on many of his PGA Tour peers back in his homeland.
Unlike other players in the field, Matsuyama, who ranks as the seventh-best player in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green in this field, knows what it takes to win at this venue and that really could be invaluable. Eight times a winner in Japan, the 29-year-old absolutely has the iron game to hit the heights this week, while his accurate approach game should hold him in good stead too.
If an elite player is what you’re after this week, then Hideki Matsuyama fits the bill. He has vital international experience that others don’t and looks set for a big week.
1 unit @ +2500
Since COVID interrupted proceedings, Abraham Ancer has come into his own and has steadily asserted himself as one of the best, most consistent players on the PGA Tour, so much so that he looks every inch a player capable of claiming a big prize, and despite what some may say, a gold medal at the Olympics is certainly a big prize.
The Mexican comes here rejuvenated after a short break following the Open Championship, where he made the cut, while he’s not short of recent experience in terms of challenging at the top. Finished fourth at the Travelers, while it was only in May when he notched up three consecutive top-ten finishes, the best of which being a second place at the Wells Fargo.
In addition to knowing that Ancer is the model of consistency, what makes him really appealing this week is his accuracy with the driver. He knows how to hit fairways and does so consistently, which given the tree trouble, is a quality that will be required at Kasumigaseki Country Club. No player in this field sits above Ancer in the driving accuracy table. That is not to be ignored. Nor is the fact that he ranks very highly in this field when it comes to other important areas such as strokes gained: off-the-tee, strokes gained: approach and strokes gained: tee-to-green.
When all is said and done if you want a well-rounded player, one who rarely struggles for accuracy, and one who comes with some juice in their odds, then look no further than Abraham Ancer.