Olympics Men’s Golf Picks and Predictions

July 29, 2021

Golf Expert

It's the second modern incarnation of golf in the Olympics and there will be three new medallists this year after Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kuchar (finished 1-2-3 in Rio in 2016) aren't involved in this year's field at all. It's a 60-man event that has some huge disparities in talent level at the top, as the gap from the top 10-20 players in this field is rather wide, and the gap between the rest of the players and the bottom tier of guys could be considered just as wide.

Back in the 2016 Rio Olympics, seven of the 10 players who ended up finishing in Top 10 all began the tournament with closing odds of 30-1 or better. Olympic champion Justin Rose closed in the +1100 range, and silver medallist Henrik Stenson (fresh of his 2016 Open Championship win) closed as the favorite in the +600 range. Sandwiched between those two guys entering the 2016 event was Sergio Garcia at +800 and he walked away from Rio with a T8 finish overall.

This year we've already seen the two pre-tournament favorites (Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm) be forced to withdraw because of unfavorable COVID test results, narrowing that group of names at the top of this tournament but also possibly hurting the case of the Olympic golf tournament being loaded with guys at +3000 or better at the top.

I don't believe that will be the case, as the talent gap is just too wide between the guys that are regular PGA Tour pros and those that hone their craft on other Tours, and we already know about various talent gaps existing on the PGA Tour to begin with.

So I wouldn't venture too far down the odds board for this Olympic golf tournament as chances are one of these guys with the top 15-20 price tags with the odds is more than likely going to win this thing.

Golf Betting Resources
2020 Olympics Men's Golf

Considering last week's Tour stop in Minnesota for the 3M Open was a Par 71, 7,431 yard track and was a virtual birdefest from top to bottom, Tour players getting that extra Par 5 at a course that's basically just as long is likely going to bring plenty of low scores too. Remember, most of the best names in the world that are playing in Japan, didn't tee it up in Minnesota last week either, as worse players than themselves were lighting up TPC Twin Cities with low scores.

Now, the pressure of it being the Olympics and playing for a unique prize (gold medal) instead of prize money could add to the nerves for most guys, but as far as the course goes, it's not likely to be a steep challenge for most of these players unless the heat and humidity that has factored into other Olympic events already in Tokyo continue to be a factor.

Kasumigaseki Country Club has grown out the rough a bit for this event, and two renovations in recent years were done with the Olympics in mind and to create a tough but fair challenge for everyone involved. Hideki Matsuyama actually won the 2010 Asia Pacific Amateur at this venue in 2010, but chances are the course is going to look quite different to him then it did 11 years ago. Matsuyama specifically this week has enormous pressure on him being the best shot for the host nation in this tournament, and even with some positive course history here, it's that pressure (perceived or otherwise) on Matsuyama this week that makes me want to have no part of him at the start of this event. Should he react well (and play well) through the first few days that tune will likely change, but of all the guys at the top of the betting board, Matsuyama is one name I'm happy to ignore for now.

Given Kasumigaseki Country Club's length setup being similar to last week in Minnesota, I'd guess that Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee is going to be a deciding factor this week as keeping the ball out of the thick rough and bombing it down the fairway at the same time is going to give guys a huge edge over most of this field. The 3M Open champion Cameron Champ was the 2nd best guy in the field last week in SG: Off-the-tee (ranked 5th) entering the week, and the only name in the field that was better – Jhonattan Vegas (ranked 4th) – ended up T2. Definitely something to keep in mind for next year's 3M Open, but it should play well again this week in Japan, as guys that gain strokes off-the-tee and find a way to get a hot putter going will be the ones looking to etch their names in Olympic history come Sunday.

An emphasis on SG: Off-the-tee in Japan makes the news of DeChambeau and Rahm withdrawing an unfortunate turn of events from a viewing standpoint because those two rank #1 and #2 respectively in that SG category.

2020 Olympics Men's Golf
Betting Odds

Eliminating DeChambeau and Rahm from the tournament means that just like in the 2016 Olympics, we've got the most recent Major winner in the field installed as the favorite like Henrik Stenson was back then.

This year, it's American Collin Morikawa (+650) who is favored to win gold, followed by two other Americans in Xander Schauffele (+800) and Justin Thomas (+1100). Norwegian Victor Hovland (+1100) is priced the same as Thomas, and UK representatives Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland) and Paul Casey (England) are right behind at +1200.

That's about where bettors will find Matusyama (+1200) as he tries to make his nation proud on its own soil, while DeChambeau's replacement Patrick Reed (+1600) is the only other name priced below +2000. That's eight names listed below that +2000 threshold which isn't a subtle hint at the disparity in talent level of this field.

Eight more names are currently priced between +2000 and +3000 on Draftkings right now, as Abraham Ancer (+2000), Joaquin Niemann (+2200), Shane Lowry (+2200), Tommy Fleetwood (+2800), Sungjae Im (+2800) Corey Conners (+2800), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+2800) and Cameron Smith (+2800) making up that group of names. The other Aussie to share this stage with Smith is Marc Leishman (+3500) and he is the only other name with a price below +5000 for this tournament.

Chances are it will be one of these names already mentioned that will win that prestigious gold medal by the end of the week and it's why the betting selections for this event will remain concentrated there rather than the usual (favorite, midrange, long shot) format these pieces have each week.

2020 Olympics Men's Golf Contenders

  • Collin Morikawa +700
  • Xander Schauffele +900
  • Justin Thomas +1100
  • Rory McIlroy +1200
  • Hideki Matsuyama +1200
  • Viktor Hovland +1200

Patrick Reed enters with odds to win the 2020 Olympics for men's golf at 18/1, performing well for Team USA throughout his career. (AP)

Contender to Back
2020 Olympics Men's Golf

Rory McIlroy +1200

McIlroy has been one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the game for years now, an din terms of the Olympic field, he comes into the event as the 3rd best guy in SG: Off-the-tee this year on Tour (8th overall) behind Jhonattan Vegas (4th overall), and Viktor Hovland (6th overall).

The overall form hasn't quite been there for McIlroy of late with a 46th, MC, and 59th in his last three starts, but the four starts prior to that had a win and three Top 20 finishes. So it's not like McIlroy's overall game is that far off currently, and as one of the bigger fish in the smaller pond that is this Olympic tournament, I would not be surprised to see a strong version of McIlroy's game show up.

Furthermore, there is a bit of a legacy narrative/angle with McIlroy I'm inclined to side with this week in that he could be the first golfer with multiple Majors and an Olympic gold medal. That's only part of the story in terms of history as well, as he's one of just a few golfers to ever win the three national Opens on the PGA Tour (US, Canadian, British), has multiple Tour championships and WGC victories to his credit, and got that elusive PLAYERS Championship back in 2019. The only thing left to do? Win Olympic gold in my mind, as McIlroy then becomes the standard that the slightly younger generation (Morikawa, Hovland, Scheffler, Niemann, Zalatoris etc) can spend the next 10-15 years chasing.

Mid-Range Value
2020 Olympics Men's Golf

Patrick Reed +1800

Given all that's gone on in the world in recent months, it's hardly surprising that enthusiasm to travel over to Japan and play golf in these Olympics wasn't high for a lot of guys. PGA Tour schedules are already demanding enough, and a pre-scheduled week off in today's world climate had to be welcomed by a lot of guys. But Patrick Reed didn't get the nickname “Captain America” for nothing, and to have him take DeChambeau's spot in this field is an opportunity I believe Reed will take full advantage of.

Now his SG: Off-the-tee numbers are far from good overall (104th ranking), but his SG numbers in every other category are all 39th or better, with his putting (8th) and around-the-green play (10th) being the highlights. Even with that 104th ranking off-the-tee, he's 8th in SG: Total still on the PGA Tour this year. That's a very strong game once Reed leaves the tee box, and against this caliber of field, I'm not as concerned about Reed's opening shots every hole.

Then there is the nationalist angle with Reed in how he's shown throughout the entirety of his career that he always finds a way to step up his game when playing for his country. Nearly all of that has been on the Ryder Cup and President's Cup platforms, but if having Olympic golf experience counts for something to some bettors this week, Reed's got that as well, finishing 11th in Rio, finishing with a 64 on Sunday, good enough for the 2nd best round of the day as Reed tried to hold onto hope of possibly getting in the medal hunt.

I don't know how you can't like the dogged determination we've seen from Reed in these national events in the past, and with Reed getting an unlikely 2nd crack at his Olympic career this week, don't be surprised to see Captain America make the most of it.

Long Shot Pick
2020 Olympics Men's Golf

Sungjae Im +2800

McIlroy is the 3rd best player in this field in the SG: off-the-tee stat this year, and clocking in at #6 for this field in that category is Im (Corey Conners is 4th and Niemann is 5th). He's one of the more accurate ball strikers out there right now ranking 14th in driving accuracy (69.08%) and 34th in GIR % (68.30) as his biggest issues come when he misses the greens (149th in SG: around-the-green). This is one of those courses where with projected scores likely to be low, if guys are spending too much time chipping to begin with, their chances to win are already gone.

Im is going to be one of the better putters in this field (38th in SG: Putting), and if green speeds are expected to be up there, then I'll take my chances with him gaining a decent advantage over most on the greens. He's not my favorite selection of the week at all, but his game should play well here.

Prop Bet to Take
2020 Olympics Men's Golf

Jhonattan Vegas Top 20 +140

Can't mention Vegas being the best in SG: off-the-tee in this field twice already in this piece without including him on the card, as he's been using that great play with the driver to wrack up some quality finishes of late.

The 2nd at the 3M Open last week was already mentioned, but it was his second runner-up finish on Tour in the past 7 weeks, which includes three Top 11 finishes in his last four starts and a 9th place finish six starts ago too.

Vegas is similar to Reed in that he's already got that Olympic experience to fall back on having competed in the 2016 games. It wasn't the best result for him in Rio (T50th), but aside from all the COVID protocols, sometimes that Olympic experience can pay off away from the golf course (or playing field) as well.

Olympic Villages are known to be distraction-filled habitats as these athletes who have poured everything into their sport for the past four (or more) years are interested in all sorts of stress-relieving activities. Cardboard beds in Japan were put in these villages to deter those types of activities, but it's also why I made the decision to stay away from the younger generation of favorites this week as who knows how that plays out away from the golf course. I do know that all three medallists from Rio were all over 35 years old at the time, as were Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson, two of the other bigger names to finish in the Top 10.

Vegas will be turning 37 in the middle of August so he fits in that idea as well, and on top of his current form, his Olympic experience, and best strength (off-the-tee) likely being very advantageous in this level of field, to get a +140 price on him to finish in the top third of this field was a pretty easy bet to make, win or lose.

How to Bet on Golf

Golf betting has gained much more exposure and interest in the past few years, and with plenty of plus-money prices littered throughout the various forms of golf wagers, the chance for bigger scores is part of the reason behind that increased popularity.

2021 Golf Betting Schedule

Sportsbooks ensure that there are no shortage of wagering options on golf tournaments every week, and it isn't all about picking the winner. Grabbing the outright winner of a golf tournament is the best way to get that 'big score' but it's also the hardest wager to cash. After all, a typical professional golf tournament has a field of 140+ different players to consider.

Understanding Golf Odds and Bets

Most golf odds are listed in the fractional format – 10/1 on Dustin Johnson for example – and in that particular case you would multiply the amount bet by that first number to project your winnings. So a $100 bet on DJ to win that particular event would win you $1000.

If you are more comfortable with the American version of odds listings that you typically see across the other major North American sports – ie +1000 – these numbers are easily convertible. Online and app based books may already have that option built in, but the easiest way to do it yourself is to add two zeros to the first number in the fraction. So a 10/1 price on DJ converts to +1000 in that format.