This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
OLYMPICS MEN'S GOLF COMPETITION
Location: Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan
Course: Kasumigaseki Country Club (East Course)
2016 winners: Justin Rose, Inbee Park (Rio de Janeiro)
Five years ago, when golf returned to the Olympics after more than a 100-year hiatus, many of the best men's players in the world begged off, including the top four in the rankings, largely citing the Zika virus epidemic. This time around, despite the far more dire COVID-19 pandemic, the men's tournament was set to be filled with many of the sport's superstars. But in the past few days the tournament has been rocked by a 1-2 punch of positive tests. First, world No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau was forced to withdraw on Saturday, and that was followed a day later by world No. 1 Jon Rahm dropping out.
Suddenly, what looked like a golf tournament for the ages – three of the top four in the world and six of the top 10 going for Olympic gold on a global stage – has been taken down a few pegs. To be sure, there's plenty of star power remaining (for now): Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele of the United States; Rory McIlroy of Ireland; Viktor Hovland of Norway; and Hideki Matsuyama of the host country Japan. And "Captain America" himself, Patrick Reed, was named to replace DeChambeau. In all, 60 golfers will be representing 35 countries when the competition begins Thursday morning – Wednesday evening in the States – outside Tokyo.
Golf returned to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for the first time since 1904. Justin Rose of Great Britain won the gold medal over Sweden's Henrik Stenson, with Matt Kuchar of the United States taking the bronze. It was a controversial and deflating return to the Summer Games for golf, as the top four golfers in the world – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and McIlroy – all passed.
The tournament had many f the characteristics of a WGC event and will so again – a limited field that's loaded at the top, but with golfers from lesser tours around the world filling the bottom. They will play a traditional four-round, 72-hole stroke-play event with no cut. A playoff would be three holes. The women will have the same setup and begin play on Aug. 4, three days after the men's competition ends. South Korea's Inbee Park is back to defend her gold medal, with Nelly Korda as the top seed, joined in the field by fellow Americans Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson and her sister, Jessica Korda. Other tops names are Ko Jin-young, Kim Sei-Young and Kim Hyo-Joo, all of South Korea; Brooke Henderson of Canada; and New Zealand's Lydia Ko. The course will play at 6,669 yards for the women.
Kasumigaseki Country Club, located about 30 miles northwest of Tokyo, dates to the late 1920s. The golfers will play the East Course, which was given a makeover five years ago by a very familiar name. Here's what it says on the club's website: "The East Course was redesigned by Tom and Logan Fazio in October 2016. It successfully retains the classic look and feel of the previous remodeling work by C.H. Alison, while at the same time adding moderate undulations on the fairways and amply sized greens with dynamic level changes surrounded by large and deep bunkers. The course, of exceptional beauty, has a dynamism that requires accurately targeted iron shots."
The course is long overall, with some very long holes but also some short ones. It is tree-lined with narrow fairways and plenty of rough, with deep fairway and greenside bunkers leading to the huge (nearly 8,000 square feet), undulating bentgrass greens. They will measure 12 on the Stimpmeter. The whole course is bentgrass. Frankly, in watching flyover video of the course, it looks a lot like what could pass for what we see week in and week out on the PGA Tour.
It begins with two of the six short par-4s under 425 yards. The three par-5s are wickedly long: the 640-yard 5th, 586-yard 8th and the 14th, which can play anywhere from 596 to 632. Three of the par-3s exceed 200 yards, with the 4th hole topping out at 237. Kasumigaseki looks like it crescendos to a potentially exciting finish, with the drivable 343-yard 17th leading to the only water in play on the course on the par-4, 500-yard 18th. A pond protects the front of the green. (Technically, water is also on the 9th, but it's inconceivable a professional golfer could hit the ball so poorly to find it.)
So how should we go about formulating lineups? Well, much like a WGC. The first page of the leaderboard almost surely will be dominated by the top golfers, and for that we shouldn't look more than 15, possibly 20 deep. Some of the other names of note in the field are Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood (Great Britain), Abraham Ancer (Mexico), Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim (South Korea), Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman (Australia), Joaquin Niemann (Chile), Shane Lowry (Ireland), Garrick Higgo and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (South Africa) and Corey Conners (Canada). Golfers from some of the lesser tours could creep into the top-25 but hardly any do in WGCs. You can all but eliminate the bottom 20 from contesting for a top-25.
Okay, does all that point to a stars-and-scrub lineup or a more balanced approach? The saving grace in filling your lineup with a lesser golfer(s) is that there is no cut, and you always have the chance they will get something going on the weekend. But identifying lesser golfers who will have a decent finish will be challenging, to say the least, and we wouldn't recommend more than one. With a balanced lineup, you will be denying yourself the likes of Morikawa, Thomas, etc., guys who are heavy favorites to win, by hoping that, say, a midrange guy can win. The feeling here gives an edge to the imbalanced lineup.
One of the subplots of these Olympics is the future of Si Woo Kim and Sungjae Im. All South Korean men must serve a 20-month military commitment but the golfers can avoid it by winning an Olympic medal. They both skipped the Open Championship to prepare. The 20-month window does not begin until age 28. Kim is 26 and Im is 23, so Im would get another shot at the 2024 Games. But this is Kim's last try. The pressure should be intense.
Weather-wise, it looks as if the golfers are in for a lot of rain, as a typhoon (akin to a tropical storm in the States) was slated to move in Tuesday night. Thunderstorms are in the forecast all four days, though with such a small field completing rounds should not be an issue. The course, however, will play longer and the rough could grow. It will be quite steamy with highs around 90 every day, and winds should be moderate.
Key Stats to Winning at Kasumigaseki
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
2016 - Justin Rose, Great Britain (Rio de Janeiro)
1904 - George Lyon, Canada (St. Louis)
1900 - Charles Sands, United States (Paris)
There are so many variables, so much we don't know – and can't know. No one can know. We don't truly know the course. We don't know how the golfers will handle the pressure of representing their country, even those who have played Ryder Cup and other international competitions. We don't know what it's like for them amid the severe COVID-19 restrictions in Japan. That said, this does appear to be a course that will favor long hitters but not exclude shorter hitters, especially those who can keep the ball in the narrow, tree-lined fairways and avoid the thick rough. The talent level from top to bottom is far greater than in a regular PGA Tour event. The limited field greatly favors the best golfers.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Collin Morikawa - $11,200 (Winning odds at DraftKings Sportsbook: +650)
It is very difficult to follow up an enormous win – the Open – with another huge tournament right afterward. And in this case, an even bigger tournament. But playing for your country can spark wondrous feelings. Besides, Morikawa is perhaps the best golfer in the world right now – certainly in this tournament without Jon Rahm present – and his accuracy off the tee and from the fairways is largely unmatched. Full disclosure: the greens this week should be far tougher than what Morikawa experienced at Royal St. George's.
Xander Schauffele - $10,700 (+800)
Schauffele is the No. 3 guy on the DK board behind Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas, but he's the No. 2 guy behind Morikawa at the DK Sportsbook. This season has not quite been up to Schauffele's lofty standards. Still, he was third at the Masters, 10th at the U.S. Open and just missed a top-25 at the Open. He is one of the top putters in the field.
Viktor Hovland - $9,900 (+1100)
Hovland is one of the elite tee-to-green players on the PGA Tour, ranking top-10 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Tee-to-Green, and top-20 in Approach. He's ranked third in birdie average and is coming off a top-15 the Open. The 23-year-old represented Norway and Europe in multiple team competitions as an amateur and will surely be on the upcoming European Ryder Cup team.
Tier 2 Values
Joaquin Niemann - $9,200 (+2200)
The Chilean is one of the longest hitters and one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, a good fit for this course (and pretty much any course). Niemann has three runners-up in 2021, including earlier this month at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He played on the 2019 Presidents Cup team.
Cameron Smith - $8,900 (+2800)
The Australian has 11 top-25s and six top-10s in 20 starts on the PGA Tour this season and is ranked 16th in the FedExCup Standings. Smith is not a long hitter, but that hasn't stopped him from ranking seventh on Tour in birdie average. Being 12th in putting surely helps. He's represented Australia often, including at the 2019 Presidents Cup. Smith tied for 33rd at the Open a few weeks ago.
Guido Migliozzi - $8,400 (+5500)
Playing for your country can bring all sorts of pressure, but we do know the Italian handled the pressure of the U.S. Open and the PGA Tour quite nicely in the past couple of months. Migliozzi tied for fourth at Torrey Pines and the next week was top-15 at the Travelers Championship. He's also been runner-up in Europe three times in 2021. He's ranked 72nd in the world.
Tier 3 Values
Mackenzie Hughes - $8,000 (+7100)
It has not been a good season for the Canadian, but it has been a great summer, and on different kinds of tracks. Hughes was top-15 at the U.S. Open and tied for sixth at the Open. In between, he was T14 at the Rocket Mortgage. The key to his success is his short game, which is good enough to offset limitations off the tee.
Antoine Rozner - $7,600 (+10000)
This has been a breakthrough year for the 28-year-old Frenchman, who has cracked the top-100 in the world for the first time. He's currently 89th. Besides playing well on the European Tour – he won in Qatar – Rozner has shown flashes on the PGA Tour, with a top-20 at the Memorial.
Thomas Detry - $7,500 (+8000)
The Belgian has been all or nothing lately, turning in a pair of runners-up in Germany and Scotland in his past five starts along with three missed cuts. Detry has represented Belgium and Europe in many team competitions, including the Junior Ryder Cup. He also helped Belgium win the World Cup of Golf in 2018, teaming with Thomas Pieters – who, at $8,100, drew strong consideration as a value pick. Detry is ranked 75th in the world, not far from his best of 71st.
Ryan Fox - $6,900 (+13000)
The big-hitting New Zealander is coming off a made cut at the Open. He finished top-10 in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the year, a tournament featuring some top Americans. Fox is ranked 189th in the world and tied for 39th at the Rio Games in 2016.
Ashun Wu - $6,500 (+18000)
One of China's top players is a three-time winner on the European Tour who tied for 30th at the Rio Olympics. Ashun has made nine of 12 Euro Tour cuts in 2021, including a top-10 at Dubai. He's ranked 339th in the world and has represented China in the World Cup of Golf three times, finishing as runner-up alongside Haotong Li in 2016.
Rafael Campos - $6,000 (+50000)
Campos is not a good golfer – on the PGA Tour. But a bad golfer on the PGA Tour is still better than most golfers from lesser tours around the world. Representing Puerto Rico here, Campos finished top-3 in the opposite-field events in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic earlier this year, and he also made cuts at the Valero, Palmetto and Barbasol, plus Mayakoba. Campos should be in the low $6,000s, but at the lowest price on the board? He's ranked 309th in the OWGR.