The men get things started in golf at the Tokyo Olympics this Thursday. Here is all you need to know about the competition, including course details, players to watch and TV times.
2016 MEDALLISTS: Great Britain's Justin Rose took home the Gold in Rio, his final round 67 delivering a two-shot win from Silver medallist Henrik Stenson. The United States' Matt Kuchar took home the Bronze, one shot further back of Stenson. None of the medallists from 2016 will tee it up this week.
COURSE: The first golf course in Saitama, Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East Course hosts the second staging of Olympic competition since golf was reinstated into the games in 2016.
Founded in 1929, the course was laid out by Kinya Fujita and Shiro Akaboshi before renowned architect C.H. Alison was brought in to redesign their work, producing one of Japan’s top courses in the process.
Alison added significant and penal bunkering, while Tom Fazio and his son Logan completed updates to the course to prepare it for its Olympic hosting duties. The American pair removing the traditional double greens found all over Japan.
Measuring 6,810 metres this week, Kasumigaseki has previously hosted Japanese Opens, the Canada/World Cup and the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2010 won by Hideki Matsuyama.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
The home hope, Hideki Matsuyama, makes for the most intriguing prospect this week as he attempts to add another significant piece of Japanese golfing history to his burgeoning resume.
The country’s first male major winner arrives slightly underdone after a positive COVID test in the US that forced him to withdraw from the Rocket Mortgage Classic and miss The Open, but he has prior success at Kasumigaseki and has played some brilliant golf this year.
The lack of fans on site could work both ways for Matsuyama, who rarely plays in front of his home crowd but is also the target of enormous expectations from the golf-mad Japanese people.
The 29-year-old typically hits plenty of greens in regulation and it is his putting that is so often the dictator of his success.
RIGHT: Justin Rose took home Gold in 2016 but won't defend his win this week in Tokyo PHOTO: Ross KinnairdGetty Images.
The Australian pair of Cam Smith and Marc Leishman don’t make this list for purely jingoistic reasons. Both are genuine medal hopes in Tokyo.
Smith has solidified himself as our highest ranked player in the men’s game over the course of 2021, and the Queenslander has a history of success when playing outside the US, including in Asia, and lifts when representing Australia and partnering with Leishman.
Despite the individual 72-hole format, spending time with Leishman and donning the green and gold bodes well for Smith this week, where he will hope to add a medal to his patriotic haircut.
For his part, Leishman has been patchy throughout the year, but his comments in the early part of this week suggest he is enjoying the Olympic experience, and a happy ‘Leish’ is often a successful one.
Playing alongside Matsuyama the first two days, Leishman’s iron play will be an advantage around the East Course, while he seems to find another gear when around his little mate Smith and he is experienced teeing it up in Japan.
After the COVID-enforced withdrawal of Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa is the top ranked player in the field in Tokyo and arrives in great form.
A major winner in his last start at The Open, Morikawa now has two of golf’s biggest trophies to his name and his game should match up well to the layout.
All reports suggest the East Course will reward good iron players, and the American is one of the best in the world, and the added element of his Japanese heritage would make for a great story as the 24-year-old continues what seems an inevitable rise to the top spot on the world rankings.
PAST AUSSIE MEDALLISTS: No Australians have medalled in previous Olympics.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Marc Leishman and Cam Smith.
Round 1: Thursday (LIVE 8:20am – 5pm)
Round 2: Friday (LIVE 8:20am – 5pm)
Round 3: Saturday (LIVE 8:20am – 5pm)
Round 4: Sunday (LIVE 8:20am – 5:30pm)
*AEST, the Olympics are being shown across Channel 7, 7mate, 7two and can be streamed via 7plus.