It’s times like these where I’m tasked to produce content for the 2021 Olympic Men’s Golf Tournament at Kasumigaseki Country Club that I’m glad my medium of choice is written articles and not in the audio or video space. I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce this place, and there are about a dozen players in this 60-man field who I’ve never heard of, and most definitely cannot pronounce their names either.
This preview article is coming a day late for a multitude of reasons. As everyone is intimately aware of by now, we had the inaugural Community Match on Saturday, which we did not win, Sunday I sweated outrights from Jhonattan Vegas & Charl Schwartzel who contended throughout but ultimately each finished T2, and did not win, and I had my first real GPP sweat of the year in the $33 Single Entry Dogleg, which I had a high 7th place finish in, but did not win. Lots of charges towards the top of the podium, but ultimately no gold medals to show for it. It was a great week for so many reasons, even despite all the “what ifs”, but I couldn’t possibly focus my attention on the 2021 Olympic Men’s Golf Tournament with all of that going on. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to Preview this event at all with so much uncertainty and guess work needed to go along with the ever-expanding list of COVID withdrawals, but when I saw Fantasy National had uploaded the Olympic field, I just couldn’t help but give a go at some modeling, even if a good degree of guess work is needed.
The format for The Olympics is standard Stroke Play for 4 days (Wednesday through Saturday, starting at 6:30PM EST) and there will be no cut. It’s a tricky week to handicap, given the constant withdrawals, questions about the conditions, and the fact that there hasn’t been a legitimate event hosted here since Hideki Matsuyama won the 2010 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. So, ultimately, it’s another “feel” week where we’re going to make some decisions outside of what the models tell us in order to answer questions like “How patriotic is this guy?”, “Who plays well in Asia?”, and “Is 1.5 days enough time to get over jetlag from Minnesota to Tokyo?”. This will not be the most stat-intensive article I’ve ever written, because I don’t think the recent form data is relevant enough to translate to this event’s conditions, but it should help steer you in the right direction to pull the trigger on where you were already leaning, if nothing else. Here’s a look at what you can expect from the 2021 Olympic Men’s Golf Tournament at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Kasumigaseki Country Club (East Course) Specs
- Yards: 7,466
- Par: 71 (4x 3’s / 11x 4’s / 3x 5’s)
- Greens: Bent
- Architect: Tom Fazio
- Comp Courses: Firestone CC, Shadow Creek, Sherwood CC, Augusta, Congaree, Quail Hollow, The Concession GC, Sheshan International GC, Nine Bridges, TPC Kuala Lumpur
- 2016 Rio Olympics Results: Justin Rose (Gold), Henrik Stenson (Silver), Matt Kuchar (Bronze)
This will be the 4th Golf event in the history of the Olympics. The first was played at the Paris Olympics in 1900, followed by the St. Louis Olympics four years later in 1904. Then after a brief 112 year hiatus, golf returned for it’s third contest at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Justin Rose prevailed for the honor of “Only living Olympic Golf Gold Medalist”. Unfortunately since Olympics Golf is essentially brand new, it lacks the storied history of the Majors and Ryder Cup, which has caused some of the world’s top players like Dustin Johnson, Tyrrell Hatton, Louis Oosthuizen, and Sergio Garcia to say “Thanks, but no thanks.” I’m hopeful that those who have elected to make the trip across the world to Tokyo in the heat of the FedEx Cup Playoff race are here because winning a medal for their country is important to them, and that over time as we continue to see more Golf in the Summer Olympics, the honor of being an Olympic medalist will have a more prestigious feel to all of the world’s best, not just the ones who are trying to dodge their mandatory military service obligations. Looking at the 2016 podium, it was no real shock to see Rose, Stenson, and Kuchar finish in the top 3, as these were the Top 3 players SG: TOT L50 rounds coming into the 2016 Olympics. Zooming in to a L36 view that year, 11 of the Top 14 finishers ranked 22nd or better in SG: TOT coming in. Thomas Pieters, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, and Marcus Fraser surprised that year, finishing T4, T5, and T5 respectively, so there is some hope for the international longshot bombs this week, but overall we should expect another top-heavy leaderboard.
In case you were wondering, it’s about an 18 hour flight to get from Blaine, MN to Tokyo, and given the truncated prep time with a Wednesday start, I’m not especially bullish on Jhonattan Vegas, Mito Pereira, or Patrick Reed who may still be in transit as of this writing. We are technically about to see back to back weeks on 7,400 yard, Par 71 courses, but that is where the similarities begin and end between TPC Twin Cities and Kasumigaseki CC. This week features an interesting mix of three likely 3-shot Par 5s and four long Par 3s, three of those sitting at 200+. However, the Par 4s will be much more straightforward and scorable, with four Par 4s sitting under 400 yards. With that being said, we should expect a premium on Par 4 Scoring this week; the Top 10 in the field Par 4 Scoring L24 includes: Collin Morikawa, Abraham Ancer, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Shane Lowry, Guido Migliozzi, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, and Xander Schauffele.
In terms of comp courses, there’s really three different segments I’m looking at in combination for reference. There’s the other likeminded Fazio designs (Shadow Creek, Firestone, Congaree), there’s the International/WGC host sites in the surrounding area played against a similar strength of field to this Olympics (Sheshan International, Nine Bridges, TPC Kuala Lumpur), and then just the eye test going through all the overhead video, photos, and comments about the course (Sherwood CC, Augusta, Quail Hollow, The Concession). As I read into the description of this course more and more, I continue to get more Concession vibes. Both courses have never hosted a professional event before which should level the playing field for younger, less experienced players, they’re both limited field, no cut events with a mix of elite names and names we’ve rarely seen state-side, and they both feature over-sized table tap greens that will put an emphasis on precise iron play to hit the correct quadrants or otherwise avoid 3-putts on miss-hits. Kasumigaseki will be more forgiving off the tee than Concession with water less in play, but I think overall, SG: OTT will continue to be important this week as well. Collin Morikawa went on to win the WGC Workday at Concession this year, and the top of the leaderboard also featured names like Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, and Cameron Smith, who are back again this week. As a fairly long Tom Fazio-designed course with prevalent bunkering throughout, you could do worse than looking at comp performance at Congaree for this year’s Palmetto Championship, where Garrick Higgo and Jhonattan Vegas of this field finished 1-2.
Having never seen a professional round played on Kasumigaseki, it’s difficult to just pick one comp course with any degree of certainty, so I’m really just looking to get a feel for average weighted performance across each of the above comp courses. The Top 10 players SG: TOT L36 across all of these comp courses includes Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Si Woo Kim, Cameron Smith, Abraham Ancer, Mathias Schwab, and Corey Conners.
- Recent Form (SG: T2G)
- SG: APP
- SG: OTT
- Birdies or Gained
- Par 4 Scoring
- SG: Putting (Bent) / 3-Putt Avoidance
- Comp Course History
Stats To Avoid
- SG: ARG
- Par 3 Scoring
- Par 5 Scoring
- Eagles Gained
Going off of the scorecard and early reports from players and caddies after initial practice rounds, it does not seem the course is designed to be the most imposing test for the field. Although the Par 5s will not be gimme Birdie opportunities like we’re used to seeing, the Par 4s should still yield plenty of scoring opportunities, so I would expect a winning score in the high teens. It’s a traditional style, tree-lined course with several water holes and large & deep bunkers throughout, so significantly wayward drives will be penalized off the tee, but for the most part, players should not have too much trouble keeping the ball in play here. There may be a slight edge for bombers, but with the Par 5s looking like 3-shot holes and many of the Par 4s playing short, I don’t think lack of distance takes the fairway-finding plotters out of this event either. In any case, I think this is a good week to purely rely on SG: OTT in addition to the standard importance on Approach. The Top 10 players SG: OTT L36 are Jhonattan Vegas, Viktor Hovland, Corey Conners, Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Collin Morikawa, Mito Pereira, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, and Si Woo Kim.
Traditional course architecture in Japan tends to feature large greens where multiple holes can be played into them on different sides. That isn’t going to be the case this week, however the greens complexes where originally designed with those features in mind, so we will see some massive, undulated greens this week, akin to a Winged Foot or Concession, putting an emphasis on SG: APP and Approach Proximity to avoid lengthy birdie putts. In that regard, 3-Putt Avoidance will also be key for the best lag putters to avoid any 3-putt bogeys on wayward approaches. The Top 10 players in 3-Putt Avoidance this week are Alex Noren, Joaquin Niemann, Mackenzie Hughes, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed, Collin Morikawa, Anirban Lahiri, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith, and Sungjae Im. Given the expected low scoring this week, we should expect players to hit a high percentage of greens in regulations, deprioritizing any emphasis on SG: ARG.
What To Look Out For at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Men’s Golf Tournament
Following the WD’s from Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau, the betting board has become starved for value in the upper tiers, which makes it hard for me to get excited about a full card from a betting perspective. That is typically the case in any limited field, no-cut event, so similar to a WGC approach, I’ll be keeping a tight card and rolling the dice on a handful of players at the top of the board who I think can win, as the win equity from bombs in these types of events tends to be minimal (still won’t stop me from wasting my money on Sebastian Munoz anyway though). I haven’t placed any outrights just yet, but Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Cameron Smith, and Garrick Higgo are on a short list of outright considerations for me this week, depending on where their numbers ultimately drift to.
I am always in a “betting card first, DFS second” mindset week to week, but at least for me personally, this feels like a week where I will go much heavier on my units in DFS than on outrights. My general philosophy when it comes to lineup construction in no cut events is that there is limited risk to punt a low $6K player in your lineup. Worst case, if he is a complete dud and finishes bottom 10, the finishing position points will not vary drastically from a player who just cracks the Top 40, and that price savings may be the difference between getting another T5 player in your lineups at the top. I fully expect another top-heavy podium in 2021 like we saw in 2016, so I’ll be trying to work in different lineup variations that allow me to jam in multiple $10K+ players. In terms of Salary relief, Rafael Campos is the guy I expect to be most overweight on. Despite the stone minimum $6,000 price, Campos has two T3 finishes on the PGA Tour this season at the Puerto Rico Open and Corales, and just fired a T20 in his last appearance at the Barbasol Championship. He’s 12th in SG: OTT L36, ahead of Justin Thomas, Paul Casey, and Sungjae Im, and he’s 20th SG: P L36 ahead of Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, and Collin Morikawa. I don’t think he has any chance to win or even Top 20, but in the absence of a true Spotlight feature this week, Campos is the guy I like most to exceed his DFS value, not finish dead last, and make a push in the Top 30 or Top 40 range.
Okay fine I’ll give you one more diamond in the rough this week: Fabrizio Zanotti. You can’t spell Fabrizio without Fazio, and my man the Paraguayan Punisher has the Tom Fazio experience having played on Firestone CC twice in his career at the WGC Bridgestone, with a high finish of T22 in 2014. He has played in one PGA Tour event in 2021, finishing a respectable T22 at Corales. Zanotti is an approach specialist, gaining strokes there in 9 of his 11 events played on the Euro Tour this season, and having gained 4+ strokes in 5 of those events. He’s a hopeless putter having gained strokes on the greens in just one event in 2021, but Cameron Champ was also hopeless with his putter coming into the 3M Open, and that didn’t stop him from trouncing the field with his flat stick, so anything is possible!
I don’t think it’s a must to run a model this week, but I did end up throwing together a quick one to gut check my initial leans. That model includes SG: APP, SG: OTT, Birdies Gained, Par 4 Scoring, Comp Course History, SG: P (Bent), and 3-Putt Avoidance. The #1 player in my model is Xander Schauffele, who ranks inside the Top 12 in each category, including #1 in Comp Course History with a win and runner up finish at Sheshan International, along with more recent runner ups at Shadow Creek and The Masters. Xander is always in play in limited field, no cut events, and depending on whether his odds dip to something bettable, he’ll definitely have my interest this week in some capacity between betting and DFS. The rest of my model’s Top 10 is rounded out by Abraham Ancer, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Reed, Joaquin Niemann, Justin Thomas, Corey Conners, and Paul Casey.
And that’ll do it from me this week! Given the tight field and short week, I’m going to be taking a break from the usual Bombs & Values, Props, and Final Thoughts articles this week, using the time to recharge for the WGC St. Jude where the usual content cycle will be back in full swing. As always, thanks for reading along, and if you have any questions, you can always DM me on Twitter!