If you are staying up through the wee hours of the night to watch the Tokyo Olympics, you are bonkers. And I love it! Men’s golf kicks off Wednesday (6:30 p.m.-3 a.m., Golf Channel) with just a 60-player field at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Collin Morikawa, coming off a win at The Open enters this event as the +750 favorite to win the gold , followed by fellow American teammates Xander Schauffele (+900) and Justin Thomas (+1100). Rounding out the top five in the betting odds are Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (+1200) and Norway’s Viktor Hovland (+1200).
Men’s golf was re-introduced to the Olympics in 2016 after a 112-year hiatus but that was in Rio de Janeiro. So, we have no course history, a small 60-player field, and 72-hole stroke play with no cut.
The information we can gather is that British player Justin Rose won the 2016 Olympic gold medal by shooting 16-under and did so making 17 total birdies. With that, I’m looking for players who can strike the ball well, make birdies and avoid bogeys.
The big names will get the attention, but these are the three players I like to contend in men’s golf in Tokyo.
Top 20: +140
Top 10: +450
To win a medal: +3000
To win: +8000
The Chilean made the official jump to the PGA Tour just last month after winning back-to-back titles on the Korn Ferry Tour shooting 27- and 21-under. Pereira did miss the cut at the Rocket Mortgage Classic earlier this month in his official tour debut, but followed that up with a 34th-place finish at the John Deere Classic, a fifth at the Barbasol Championship, and a sixth at the 3M Open.
Extremely short sample size, but Pereira is first in birdie-or-better percentage in the field and 13th in strokes gained approach. If I’m looking for someone who can play precision golf and with a high ceiling, Pereira is worth a grab.
Top 20: +100
Top 10: +300
To win a medal: +1600
To win: +5000
Vegas has a much larger sample size to pull from as he’s been a pro since 2008 with three career wins. However, it’s his 2021 performance that has my attention. Vegas (great name btw) has three runner-up finishes this year, two of which came in his last five starts. Vegas took second at the Palmetto Championship and second at the 3M Open just last week. More importantly, his ball-striking has been top notch, gaining strokes in 10 straight events. His problem area is typically with his short game. However, Vegas has relatively stayed neutral around the green and has gained strokes putting in back-to-back events.
Vegas also took 11th at the John Deere Classic, another par 71 course. Give me a great name, the fact that he’s a fellow Longhorn (Hook ’Em), and coming into this with great form, yeah — I’ll be invested.
Top 20: -200
Top 10: +150
To win a medal: +600
To win: +2200
While Pereira and Vegas offer plus-money value for a Top 20, Ancer’s odds do not. You’ve gotta risk it for the biscuit! A top 10 is certainly on the table. As far as stats, Ancer is top 15 in both strokes gained approach and birdie-or-better, and top 50 in bogey avoidance. Plus, he’s had a stellar run the last few months.
In 2021, Ancer has played in 17 events with 10 Top 20 finishes. Five of those have been Top 10s, four of which have come in his last seven starts. His ball-striking has always been stellar, while his short game has been sub-par to say the least.
However, Ancer has had a bit of a turning point. From January through April, Ancer lost strokes both around the green and putting. But after April, he’s stayed neutral around the green in six of his last seven events and gained strokes putting in five of his last six. If he can continue on that trend, I like his chances. Plus, he and I were born in the same city, McAllen, Texas. That’s gotta count for somethin’.
With an unknown course and no cut, it’s worth a shot straying away from some of the favorites and looking at players further down the betting board. Perhaps one of these three guys could be the winning ticket.
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