Sadly, Jon Rahm has been more attached to Covid than Dr. Faucci the last few months. Rahm was forced to withdraw from the Memorial as the leader after a positive test back in May. He then got vaccinated, came out of quarantine, and won the US Open at his home away from home – Torrey Pines. Now he has tested positive for the virus yet again and is forced to drop out of another dream come true…representing Spain in the Olympics. Mr. Protein Shake Bryson DeChambeau also tested positive…so he had to bow out, making way for Captain America himself, Patrick Reed to enter the fray. Italy’s Francesco Molinari didn’t test positive, but withdrew citing health concerns.
Now to the event itself. I don’t want to paint the Olympics on a negative canvas especially with some of the big names having to skip the games due to a virus that I am sick of dealing with and talking about. I love the Olympics. I love the passion and excitement that comes with rooting for one’s homeland. I love the joy on the athletes’ faces who, besides golf and basketball, aren’t paid millions of dollars to compete and only get to showcase their talents on the world’s stage every few years. Now, I don’t think I could get jacked up with unbridled enthusiasm for gymnastics or table tennis on a regular basis, but every 4 years…no problemo. With all this being said…I hate the format for Olympic golf.
I can see any old 4-round stroke play tournament every given week on the PGA Tour. If there ever was a time to return golf to its championship roots of team match play, it would be the damn Olympic games. The field of 60-some players tees it up for days of stroke play and the top 3 scores get medals. Boring. Lazy. Dumb. Can you imagine JT, Reed, Xander, and Collin standing on the podium all receiving gold medals for Team USA? Or Lowry and Rory celebrating gold for Ireland with a pint in each hand? There’s a reason why the Ryder and President’s Cups are the 2 most viewed events in the game. People love team golf. It took 112 years to get golf back in the Olympics, let’s not take that long to make it right.
Five years ago in Rio, Olympic golf was played on a brand new course built specifically for the games, and there was much worry leading up to the event that it wouldn’t be mature in time for the competition. No such worry this year as the course in Tokyo is nearly a century old. Kasumigaseki opened its East course in 1929 followed by the West course in 1932, making it the country’s first 36-hole club. Eight years later began WWII and Japan ordered its citizens to stop playing golf. Part of the West course was utilized by the Japanese military and several holes were sold for farmland to raise funds to help the club during the war. The club closed in 1945, and later that year was requisitioned by the US Air Force. Golf wasn’t played again at Kasumigaseki until 1946 when 9 holes from each course were used to make a full 18. The holes that were used for farming were bought back and 2 years later the US Air Force packed up shop, making it a 36-hole facility once again. The Big 3 of Palmer, Player, and Nicklaus played a televised match in 1967 and Golf Magazine ranked it as one of the top-50 courses in the world in 1979.
When you want your course renovated and brought into the 21st century, you call none other than Tom Fazio. He and his son, Logan, were brought over in 2014 to modernize the East course and re-do each green. The original design was built by 5 founding members and then renovated 2 years later by British course architect, C. H. Alison. Alison designed and renovated a few Japanese courses in the 30’s and his impact is still very much felt today. Large, deep-faced bunkers are referred to as Alison bunkers, as this was one of his trademarks. To give you an idea of Alison’s resume’, he consulted on the design of Pine Valley, often regarded as the #1 golf course on the planet.
Kasumigaseki will play 7,500 yards for the Olympic competition. Fazio’s big task outside of redesigning each green complex was moving the bunkers to accommodate today’s distances. The characteristics of the bunkers remained…deep and in your face. It’s been said to have the look of an old Donald Ross but with the feel of the Monterrey Peninsula. Japan’s favorite golfing son, Hideki Matsuyama, won the 2009 Japan Junior and the 2010 Asia-Pacific Amateur here. So he should probably be your betting favorite and at least in your lineup.
2016 Medal Winners in Rio de Janeiro
Gold – Justin Rose Gold – Inbee Park
Silver – Henrik Stenson Silver – Lydia Ko
Bronze – Matt Kuchar Bronze – Shanshan Feng
Notable names in the Olympic field representing their country:
USA – Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Scahuffelle, Patrick Reed
Australia – Cam Smith, Marc Leishman
Canada – Corey Conners, Mackenzie Hughes
Great Britain – Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood
Ireland – Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy
Japan – Hideki Matsuyama
Norway – Viktor Hovland
Mexico – Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz
Slovakia – Rory Sabbatini
South Korea – Sungjae Im, Si Woo Kim
Sweden – Alex Noren
Venezuela – Jhonattan Vegas
USA – Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda
Thailand – Ariva Jutanugarn
Sweden – Anna Nordqvist
Spain – Carlota Ciganda
South Korea – Jin Young Ko, Inbee Park, Sei Young Kim, Hyo-Joo Kim
New Zealand – Lydia Ko
Mexico – Gaby Lopez, Maria Fassi
Japan – Nasa Hataoka
Germany – Sophia Popov
Canada – Brooke Henderson, Alena Sharp
China – Shanshan Feng, Xiyu Lin
Australia – Minjee Lee, Hannah Green
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional