2021 Tokyo Olympic Men’s Golf Best Bets: Outrights and Sleeper Picks to Win Gold
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Mackenzie Hughes
- The PGA TOUR takes a break as the Olympics welcome golf to the games for just the fourth time ever.
- The event features 60 golfers from around the world and is held at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
- Our staff delivers their favorite bets for who they think could deliver gold.
The PGA TOUR is taking a break this week to make way for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The men’s golf tournament features a 60-man field with Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy at the top of the oddsboard. The five favorites are joined by a host of other big names like Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Reed, who will try and take home gold at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Here are our favorite outright bets and longshots for the 2021 Olympic Men’s Golf Tournament:
Justin Thomas (+1100)
If we’re talking about flushers from the U.S., then it’s fully fair that Collin Morikawa’s name is now mentioned before that of Thomas, who simply hasn’t been as proficient as his countryman lately with an iron in his hands.
Even so, it’s not as if JT can’t fire some darts at flagsticks. At nearly twice the price of Morikawa and with some motivation to not only represent his country, but salvage a bit of a lost season, I really like him to make a serious run at the gold this week.
I’ve often warned bettors to take professional golfers’ social media posts with a grain of salt. Read too many of ‘em and you’ll believe every player is dialed in and ready to win; nobody ever posts that they’re a few months away from playing their best golf and are probably a poor bet for that given week. That said, Thomas sucked me in with his initial posts about playing for his country and how much it means to him.
There’s obviously no stat to measure “strokes gained: motivation,” but that’s a major theme for my plays this week.
Results of 21st-MC-19th-40th in the majors will be a lot more palatable for JT if he can add a medal to his Players Championship victory.
Joaquin Niemann (+2200)
I started my card with Joaquin Nieman in this range. Niemann is great with his irons and, on his day, has the potential to contend in any field. He hasn’t popped up during a big event yet, but his results are slowly improving and he’s trending towards a signature win.
Rory McIlroy (+1200)
After the Open Championship, Rory McIlroy made some discouraging comments about his upcoming trip to Tokyo for the Olympics, expressing a lack of desire to represent Ireland at Kasumigaseki Country Club: “I don’t know if there is much to look forward to, it is obviously going to be a very different environment.”
While that may be a potential concern, there is a lot to like about Rory McIlroy this week. His iron game has really come around as he ranks third in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. Kasumigaseki Country Club on paper is a perfect course for Northern Irishman.
A Tom Fazio design, the layout of the course is very similar to both Quail Hollow and Firestone Country Club; two courses where Rory has had incredible success. McIlroy’s best golf often comes on long and classical tree-lined layouts, and if further evidence is needed after his win at Quail Hollow back in May, he ranks first in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Tom Fazio designs in his past 36 rounds.
The 32-year-old has also had success playing in no-cut events in Asia, as he won the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions in 2019 at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai, China.
With the favorite Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau out due to COVID-19, I see a lot of value backing Rory McIlroy to bring a Gold medal home to Ireland.
Collin Morikawa (+700)
Frankly, I’m surprised that his line is this favorable. He just dazzled in his debut at The Open Championship and he’s a short-lister to be Player of the Year.
It’s a limited field at the Olympics and it’s top-heavy. There are maybe only a dozen legitimate threats to win gold.
The absence of a cut benefits all, but it also fuels the likelihood for separation between the names you know and the names you don’t.
Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East Course is an unknown, it’s soft and it has large greens. Parts of this shootout will include hot putting – they always do – but the narrative likely will be supported by quality ball-striking. It always is on unfamiliar greens.
Thomas Detry (+8000)
We’ve been on the topic of all-or-nothing players in the wake of Cameron Champ’s third career PGA TOUR victory this past weekend. Detry has yet to win a European Tour event, but holds the same type of high-floor/low-ceiling potential, as evidenced by two runner-up finishes and three MCs in his last five starts.
I like taking a shot here and hoping that ceiling outweighs the floor.
Mackenzie Hughes (+7000)
Hughes has worked his way up on leaderboards in the U.S. Open and Open Championship.
It’s usually all short game with him, but the irons have been strong in recent events and the driver is hovering around field average. If weather plays a factor and this turns into a scramble-fest on an unknown course, we may get an outsider like Hughes to take this down.
Si Woo Kim (+5500)
Who doesn’t love a good narrative?
A medal for Si Woo Kim would mean avoiding military service after the 2022-2023 season. The South Korean has had a very promising career thus far with three PGA TOUR wins including a PLAYERS Championship victory in 2017. We saw how devastating a mandatory two-year military service can be to a young golfer’s career with fellow South Korean Sang-moon Bae back in 2015, so it is crucial for Si Woo to avoid the same fate.
Although he has had an up and down season, Kim often has risen to the challenge in the big events. This season the 26-year-old has a 9th at Memorial, 12th at the Masters and a 9th at the PLAYERS in addition to his victory at The American Express. When in form, few golfers can get as hot with the irons as Si Woo. This week in Japan would be a perfect time for him to catch fire.
Jhonattan Vegas (+7000)
With only a handful of bona fide contenders to win, the board is starkly reflective of the relativity of the others. There’s a rapid ascent into guys in the small second tier like the Venezuelan who is positioned in my Power Rankings at PGATOUR.com.
He’s recorded a trio of runner-up finishes among six top 20s over the last five months. It’s impossible to determine if he’s sustained the groove because his second appearance in the Olympics was on the horizon – the only other two of his countrymen with greater than zero Official World Golf Ranking points slot outside the top-1,650 – but we can’t rule it out.
The form checks one important box, his fit checks another.
He profiles primarily as a long hitter who attacks pins with regularity, and it’s exactly the reason why he descended in Tokyo on this wave. Since the runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open in late February, he’s climbed 75 spots to 33rd on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, shaving three-and-a-half strokes per tournament in the category.