Olympic Golf – Power Rankings & Odds

The 72-hole, stroke-play competition at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be one of the most compelling of our generation.

Consider that many of the 60 professionals from 34 countries who will be making their debuts in the games – of course they are, it’s the first time golf has been included in the Olympics since 1904 – will never qualify again. There is no prize money and nothing will ever compare to the physical weight and personal accomplishment of gold, silver or bronze around the neck. A medal is forever. In the very least, all are filled with unparalleled pride in representing and wearing the colors of one’s country in the global event that showcases the best athletes just once every four years.

The arena, as it were, in which the Olympic Golf Competition will be contested is a sporty track designed by Gil Hanse. Dubbed Rio Olympics Golf Course (or Campo Olimpico de Golfe in Brazil’s native Portuguese), it sits exposed to the Atlantic Ocean west of Rio. As a par 35-36=71 at just 7,128 yards with the full set of four par 5s, you can connect the dots to understand that a prevailing breeze from the southeast helps defend the course. Sustained winds of anywhere from 10-20 mph are forecast throughout the competition, but direction will vary. And despite the fact that it’s the meteorological winter in Rio for the Summer Games, gradually rising daytime highs might touch 80 degrees by Sunday’s final round. Skies should be mostly sunny, so Hanse’s handiwork will play fast and firm. There is no cut.

Paspalum greens average 6,800 square feet and their undulations will be noticeable. Mitigating the unfamiliarity to a degree, they’re unlikely to run faster than 11.5 on the Stimpmeter. That will enhance the enjoyment of the course, which figures to be an 18-hole playground.

There are no trees in play and there is no rough on Rio Olympics GC. Other than wind, the strategic placement of 79 bunkers will act as guards. (Golfers will be allowed to extricate pebbles found in the bunkers without penalty. It’s one of the compromises since Hanse was required to use sand on site, a portion of which was once a sand quarry. Three different grains populate the property.) Because of the propensity of short and long holes, particularly the nine par 4s, expect quite a bit of discussion about half-par holes, which is a tidy way to label the expectation of swings via risk-reward scoring. Some pars may feel like birdies, while others bogeys. With an array of tee boxes built in, course elasticity will further keep the field on its toes.

Rio Olympics GC won’t challenge the Olympians as much as their emotions, especially with the potential for eagle-birdie-eagle to conclude the final round. The par-4 16th will probably be drivable before the field navigates the short par-3 17th and par-5 finisher. Certainly, wisdom and talent will prevail, but patience in pursuit of history will help separate. Not unlike how any trophy can’t be won on a Thursday, victory can be forfeited early. Or can it? With a dynamic design that allows for recovery and the potential for a showstopping performance, he who wants it the most will have every opportunity to go for the gold.

POWER RANKINGS: OLYMPIC MEN’S GOLF COMPETITION

RANK PLAYER COMMENT
1 Henrik Stenson Henrik Stenson

Already made recent history as Sweden’s first male major champion (at Royal Troon). Leads TOUR in GIR and ranks 11th in converting those chances into par breakers.

2 Sergio Garcia Sergio Garcia

Enjoying a superb 2016. It would be beyond ironic if he captures gold on a track akin to the kind of links-style test on which he’s thrived in The Open Championship.

3 Patrick Reed Patrick Reed

Perfect match between stakes and swagger. T10-T12-T13-T11 upon arrival and consistently strong season harvested by one of the best short games anywhere. U.S. backbone.

4 Justin Rose Justin Rose

Worked through a tight back for T22s in the last two majors, also his last two starts. His putting will be in the spotlight most among the notables in Rio.

5 Martin Kaymer Martin Kaymer

If you hadn’t noticed, he’s gone from infrequently crashing leaderboards to logging four top 10s and another top 15 since late May. Tied for seventh at Baltusrol.

6 Matt Kuchar Matt Kuchar

Rio Olympics GC isn’t the kind of thread-the-needle fare that he prefers, but he can’t lament over a late spring and summer that has yielded six top 10s and another top 20.

7 Rafa Cabrera Bello Rafa Cabrera Bello

The wiry Spaniard has been one of the planet’s most consistent touring pros all year. Evident in ranking seventh on the European Tour in GIR and eighth in scoring.

8 Bubba Watson Bubba Watson

The value of his creativity is in the air, but the ground game could be rewarded more this week. Amid a pedestrian spell sans a top 10 anywhere since China in late April.

9 Emiliano Grillo Emiliano Grillo

The 23-year-old Argentine began the week without his clubs, but no one can take away the quintet of top 15s he’s posted worldwide since June.

10 Alex Cejka Alex Cejka

Grizzled 45-year-old arrives in proper form: T5-T11 in last two starts, respectively. Sits 35th on TOUR in GIR, fourth in scrambling, inside top 20 in par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring.

11 Gregory Bourdy Gregory Bourdy

Eleven top 25s in 2016, six of which in his last seven starts, including the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. The ball-striker ranks 15th on the European Tour in scoring.

12 Rickie Fowler Rickie Fowler

Nothing like the Olympics to reignite his year. Stats are buoyed by a torrid first half, but placed T10 at the no-cut WGC-Bridgestone a month ago.

13 Jhonattan Vegas Jhonattan Vegas

The Venezuelan punctuated a season’s worth of teases with victory at Glen Abbey three weeks ago. Currently fourth in GIR and ninth in average distance of putts made.

14 Danny Willett Danny Willett

Already has the mettle as a major champion, but he’s still adjusting to life with the badge. Among the cream in this field. Irons and putting are his strengths.

15 Cheng Tsung Pan Cheng Tsung Pan

Successful on every level. Won gold at the 2014 Asian Games. Will be on the PGA TOUR in 2016-17. Top 20s in last six starts on Web.com Tour where he leads in par-4 scoring.

BETTING

Henrik Stenson
Sergio Garcia
Justin Rose
Bubba Watson
Rickie Fowler
Martin Kaymer
Matt Kuchar
Patrick Reed
Danny Willett
Emiliano Grillo
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Byeong Hun An
Danny Lee
Padraig Harrington
Soren Kjeldsen
Thongchai Jaidee
Bernd Wiesberger
David Lingmerth
Jhonattan Vegas
Joost Luiten
Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Thomas Pieters
David Hearn
Graham DeLaet
Nicolas Colsaerts
Scott Hend
Anirban Lahiri
Gregory Bourdy
Jaco Van Zyl
Jeunghun Wang
Matteo Manassero
Mikko Ilonen
Thorbjorn Olesen
Alex Cejka
Brandon Stone
Cheng Tsung Pan
Fabian Gomez
Felipe Aguilar
Hao Tong Li
Julien Quesne
Marcus Fraser
Ryan Fox
Wu Ashun
Adilson da Silva
Fabrizio Zanotti
Ricardo Gouveia
Shingo Katayama
Yuta Ikeda
Miguel Tabuena
Nino Bertasio
Seamus Power
SSP Chawrasia
Espen Kofstad
Jose-Filipe Lima
Roope Kakko
Danny Chia
Gavin Kyle Green
Rodolfo Cazaubon
Siddikur Rahman
Wen-Tang Lin

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