The Event: Golf, making its return to the Olympics after a 112 year break and not doing itself a great favour given that none of the top 4 players in the world will be there. That said it’s got everybody elsewhere and a quality field for any tournament’s worth.
The Course: Designed by Gil Hanse, it’s likened to be a links course by those who have experienced it. Experts say that that the course most similar is those of the Sandbelt outside Australia. For those who are really interested, that’s the Commonwealth Golf Club, Oakleigh South. Huntingdale Golf Club, Oakleigh South. Kingston Heath, Cheltenham. Metropolitan Golf Club, Oakleigh South. Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Black Rock. Victoria Golf Club, Cheltenham. Yarra Yarra Golf Club, Bentleigh East.
This isn’t a conventional golf course – there are no trees, Water is in-play on just four holes, and there’s no traditional rough to boot – the 79 bunkers are made of three different types of sand and they will be the toughest part of the course.
The Form: Anything from the Sandbelt, links or an Open. Hanse designed Castle Stuart, venue of the Scottish Open for four of the last six years, whilst the 2013 World Cup of golf was played on a Sandbelt event. Links specialism isn’t a bad thing, in short.
The Scenario: It’s usually best to be upfront after the first round in any tournament but if there is a gamechanger then it should be the closing stretch but three of the last four holes are driveable in two and that should lead to scoring opportunities to be had for all. If a player’s going well before then, the changes are probably most likely to occur there and then.
The Field: Still a very decent one even if the top players in the world are missing out on it. It’s only 60 players, so easier for many punters with a good deal appearing to be below the standard of a PGA Tour event for example.
The Verdict: How much has Henrik Stenson recovered from the PGA? That’s the question because his closing Open effort was the best round I’ve seen this year – yes, even ahead of big Jim’s 58 – and then he contended for three and half rounds in the USPGA Championship a fortnight ago. If he’s fresh from that then he’s the favourite and a generously priced one too considering what the market for majors looks like normally and there’s no reason he can’t take the beating.
This could be one for the favourites with much of the opposition gone and it’s an ideal opportunity for Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard plays links beautifully on links courses as a long career attests and whilst he lost his confidence at Baltusrol after a bad bogey (previously one under par) but this is a different test altogether and before that he won at Bryon Nelson and was fifth in the US Open and Open proper before that. He should be looking to go well again if recovered.
Justin Rose has won at least once every year since 2010 but a back injury has prevented him from doing so this time around. However, he has shown strong form since, closing well to tie 22nd in both the Open and USPGA and what’s more he’s been in Rio for a week too. GB also have Masters champion Danny Willett, who showed immense talent and bottle to take the major prize there but sadly he’s not achieved much at all since.
Team USA would obviously be upfront for having a strong squad and all four of their quarter are serious medal contenders. The best of those maybe Patrick Reed, who has a fine links record, performed brilliantly at the Ryder Cup, and is also in red hot form. His last three last three appearances have seen him finish 12th in the Open Championship, 13th at the USPGA and 11th at the Travelers Championship, and before that he closed strongly to for 10th in Scotland. He’s switched to a new putting coach since in the shape of Dave Stockton and that make the difference although his balls of steel should come in handy too. The way that Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar have talked about the games (well in terms of representing their country) is very encouraging indeed, and of those Kuchar would be just the most convincing despite the fact that he didn’t know it was a team event.
Martin Kaymer had disappointed at two majors after a strong run of form but it’s hard to think of few better players at the links and now’s a good time to remember that he’s an excellent Ryder Cup specialist too mind. The tougher the course the better for him but there’s nothing that
Ireland have a solid chance in Padraig Harrington but a back nine riddled with five bogeys and a double may not be the best way to come in and perhaps it’s best to stick to the leaders.
2 pts each/way Henrik Stenson (11/2 general)
1 pt each/way Sergio Garcia (8/1 Bet365)
1 pt each/way Patrick Reed (16/1 Bet365)
1 pt each/way Martin Kaymer (18/1 Boylesport)