Brendan James – Golf Australia Editor

The East Course at Kasumigaseki CC is going to play soft after heavy rain leading into the opening round. This, combined with the huge greens, plays right into the hands of the best ball-strikers in the field, who can be confident taking dead aim at the flag.

There is no better ball-striker in the game at the moment than COLLIN MORIKAWA.

The Open Champion leads the PGA Tour in two key stats – Strokes Gained: Approach The Green and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. The second of those stats reveals he gains two strokes on the field per round based on his tee to green performance and leads both Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka in the category, neither of whom are playing in Tokyo.

Morikawa’s Japanese ancestry will also be an inspiration to perform well this week

Sportsbet odds: $8

JIMMY EMANUEL – Golf Australia Deputy Editor

He is not the favourite after his spell away from tournament golf following contracting COVID, but HIDEKI MATSUYAMA will give a Gold Medal a red hot shake this week and more than likely be on the podium come Sunday.

Matsuyama is something of a mystery when it comes to his motivations, but he is clearly someone who takes great pride representing his country and prior experience at Kasumigaseki cannot be discounted.

This is a course for ball strikers and Matsuyama fits the bill perfectly, and the lack of crowds and resulting simmered hysteria around Japan’s first male major winner should actually help him get the job done.

Sportsbet odds: $12

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Rod Morri – Golf Australia magazine contributor and The Thing About Golf podcast host

Not just because he’s Australian but because he looks to be invested in the Olympics more than any other player, I like CAM SMITH’s chances at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Tokyo.

Visually the course is not dissimilar to Augusta National and while it may not play the same way the shots required around the greens will certainly play to Smith’s strengths.

He proved himself a worthy opponent in his Presidents Cup debut in 2019 and always seems to lift for the biggest events, this one perhaps the biggest of them all outside the majors.

Sportsbet odds: $21

Mark Hayes – Man About Golf

CAM SMITH. Why not?

To see that haircut on top of an Olympic podium will be the defining point for golfing "fashion" for decades to come.

Loves Japan, is ultra-relaxed in his bubble with ‘Leish’, ‘Finchy’ and others and has been itching to play Olympics for about a decade.

Grows an extra leg in green and gold and has the short game that will shine on this Tokyo parkland classic.

Sportsbet odds: $21


Brendan James – Golf Australia Editor

JAZZ JANEWATTANANOND is one of only a few players in the field with past experience at Kasumigaseki CC, which has to account for something.

Although he doesn’t remember much about that experience in 2010, he has played a lot in Japan and is familiar with the conditions.

His T46 at The Open snapped a run of four missed cuts in five starts and, although currently ranked No.150 in the world, proved he could be heading back to a spot in the World’s Top-50.

Sportsbet odds: $126

JIMMY EMANUEL – Golf Australia Deputy Editor

A small field and a course largely unknown to many means anyone can nab some hardware, and RYAN FOX wouldn’t surprise if he did so this week.

Fox played at Kasumigaseki in 2010 at the Asia-Pacific amateur, where he was a respectable T34 and the Kiwi has put some decent results on the board of late.

With power to burn, Fox should give himself plenty of birdie chances this week and wearing his national colours will mean a lot to the son of an All Black great and grandson of a Black Caps captain.

Sportsbet odds: $101

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Rod Morri – Golf Australia magazine contributor and The Thing About Golf podcast host

Any player that can qualify for the Open by winning a tournament carrying – literally – just 11 clubs can surely upset the field to claim Gold in Tokyo?

JUVIC PAGUNSAN’s remarkable win at the Mizuno Open in Japan earlier this year earned him a place in the field at Royal St George’s and while victory there may have been a step too far, the much smaller field this week gives him a more realistic chance.

Spurred on by countrywoman Hidilyn Diaz claiming The Philippines’’ first ever Olympic gold medal in the weightlifting earlier this week, lookout for an inspired Pagunsan to perform above expectations at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Sportsbet odds: $401

Mark Hayes – Man About Golf

Trying to avoid army conscription that will follow without a medal this week is a fair motivational force, I reckon for SUNGJAE IM.

He's good; he's near home; and he definitely doesn't want to go from lieutenant in the Presidents Cup to a private in the Korean Army.

Sportsbet odds: $23


Brendan James – Golf Australia Editor

Will this week see another Aussie win on the European Tour? Absolutely, and if he can keep the bogeys off his card, that man will be ELVIS SMYLIE.

He missed the cut by a single stroke in Wales last week after rounds of 74-71, with his even par second round including two eagles and two birdies offset by six bogeys.

The two par-70 courses being used offer plenty of birdie opportunities beyond the two par-5s in play on each, so Elvis will have his chances to impress with his length and iron precision this week.

Sportsbet odds: $151

JIMMY EMANUEL – Golf Australia Deputy Editor

Simply impossible to go past JUSTIN HARDING this week for mine.

The South African went so close to claiming another European Tour victory in Wales last week and another win seems just around the corner for the long putter wielding man known as ‘Hack”.

Harding has a gritty determination to him and the courses for this week should both suit his game built on accuracy and tidy putting.

Sportsbet odds: $12

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Rod Morri – Golf Australia magazine contributor and The Thing About Golf podcast host

After a good start but tough finish last week in his first overseas event for the year, look for BRYDEN MACPHERSON to bounce back in Northern Ireland this week with some more consistent play.

Twice a winner in Australia already in 2021, the rejuvenated 31-year-old has everything to play for, nothing to lose and knows how to get across the finish line if he gets a chance. It’s a good combination.

Sportsbet odds: $67

Mark Hayes – Man About Golf

Golf's version of the Hubble Telescope (nowhere he won't go) SCOTT HEND has been building lately and now, with a chance to show off his size 12s as the sharpest among both men's and women's fields, he's ready to strike again.

Enjoys different formats of golf, too.

Sportsbet odds: $67


Brendan James – Golf Australia Editor

As much as I would like to see an Aussie double in Northern Ireland, I think Thailand’s ATTHAYA THITIKUL will spoil that party.

The 18-year-old, who has already won three times on the Ladies European Tour, is a flusher and this was evident in her T5 at the Evian Championship in France last week.

If she carries that form into this week she will have her fourth title.

Sportsbet odds: $9

JIMMY EMANUEL – Golf Australia Deputy Editor

This event has career changing potential given its shared LPGA and LET sanctioning and I think STEPH KYRIACOU will take advantage and grab some more silverware in Northern Ireland.

Kyriacou turned an opportunity at home into LET status as an amateur in 2020 and hasn’t looked back. And having won again on the circuit this year, the 20-year-old will be full of confidence after a major championship made cut in France last week, where a disappointing final round will have only fuelled her fire.

Sportsbet odds: $29

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Rod Morri – Golf Australia magazine contributor and The Thing About Golf podcast host

She likely surprised a few last week with her play at the Evian but Thailand's ATTHAYA THITIKUL hasn’t fluked her way to the top of the Ladies European Tour money list.

The 19-year-old is a superstar in waiting and will only have gained in confidence after a fifth place finish in the year's second to last major.

Back on ‘home' soil, look for the teen to dominate this week.

Sportsbet odds: $9

Mark Hayes – Man About Golf

IN GEE CHUN. She's too good to stay much longer out of the winner's circle and showed on the shores of Lake Geneva that the magic is nearly back in train.

If not this week, it won't be far away.

Sportsbet odds: $11


So far our so-called experts have combined to tip 20 winners in 2021, with 98 of their picks recording top-10 finishes that week and a best return of $61 for Max Homa to win the Genesis Invitational (tipped by Rod Morri).