It was a thrilling finish to the men’s golf competition at Kasumigaseki Country Club last week but it would be no surprise if things were even closer for the women’s event.
American Nelly Korda is the LPGA’s only multiple-winner so far in 2021, highlighting just how competitive things are at the top of the women’s game.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Inbee Park (pictured right) took gold in Rio ahead of Lydia Ko with silver and Shanshan Feng with bronze. All three are back in Tokyo and Ko and Park are well in the conversation to medal again.
COURSE: Playing nearly 800 metres shorter than it did for the men, Kasumigaseki Country Club will still present a stern test for the best women players in the world.
The rough will be thicker than most in the field are used to and for that reason there will be a premium on finding fairways from the tee.
The course set up crew will play a significant role in scoring but if the greens remain soft as they were last week the players should have little trouble holding the surfaces and expect plenty of birdies.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: American Nelly Korda has clearly been the best golfer in the world in 2021 and will be the player both fans and other golfers are watching.
Majestic when in full flight, there are few weaknesses in her game and, if she plays her best, she will be in the top three.
But Korda won’t have things all her own way, a rejuvenated Lydia Ko shaping as just one of several legitimate threats.
Ko lost her way in the game after Rio but has found form again in 2021 and not only notched her first victory in four years but has been a regular fixture at the top end of leaderboards all year.
While overjoyed with silver at the last games, Ko will harbour a burning desire to go one better this week and the course should set up well for her game.
The US and Korean challenges will be particularly strong with both nations fielding the maximum of four players.
Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson and Nelly Korda’s sister, Jessica, round out the US team while defending champion Inbee Park is joined by World No.2 Jin Young Ko, 12-time LPGA winner Sei Young Kim and World No. 6 Hyo Joo Kim.
A case could be made for all eight players which bodes well for a potential Sunday afternoon shootout.
While those two teams will hog the bulk of the limelight the Australian pair of Hannah Green and Minjee Lee are both genuine medal chances.
Lee has taken her game – but perhaps more importantly her confidence – up a notch with a maiden major win at the Evian two weeks ago and at eighth in the world can hold her own in any company.
Green is a different style of player to Lee but a fierce competitor who showed her commitment to representing Australia by skipping the Evian to prepare for this week.
In terms of technique she is one of the most improved players on the LPGA in 2021 and if she has any chance on the back nine Sunday will be a danger.
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: No Australians have medalled in previous Olympics
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Minjee Lee; Hannah Green
Round 1: Wednesday, (LIVE 8:20am – 5pm)
Round 2: Thursday (LIVE 8:20am – 5pm)
Round 3: Friday (LIVE 8:20am – 5pm)
Round 4: Saturday (LIVE 8:20am – 5:30pm)
*AEST, the Olympics are being shown across Channel 7, 7mate, 7two and can be streamed via 7plus.