This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Olympic Men's Golf Competition
Course: Kasumigaseki Country Club East Course (7,447 yards, par 71)
Five years ago golf returned to the Olympics for the first time since 1904. Crazy enough, that 60-man field was also affected by a virus. A few of the top names in the game also declined an invitation to the 2016 Olympic Golf Competition due to the Zika Virus. The event still got a number of top players and the medalist positions were very appropriate. There was a clear separation of the top-three players from the rest of the field. Justin Rose won gold by two strokes over silver-medalist Henrik Stenson, who was another shot ahead of Matt Kuchar taking home bronze for Team USA. This time around one year later than expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 60-man field will look to conquer Kasumigaseki Country Club's East Course. The club was founded in the 1920's and most recently hosted the 2010 Asian-Pacific Amateur Championship back in 2010, which sent Hideki Matsuyama to the Masters for the first time. Of course, Matsuyama will be returning in 2021 to his home country looking to take gold to go with his Green Jacket from April. Matsuyama will also be returning following a positive COVID-19 test that caused him to miss the Open Championship. Speaking of positive tests, this pas weekend it was announced that two of the top-six in the OWGR would have to withdraw from the Olympics. Bryson DeChambeau will be replaced by Patrick Reed on the four-man Team USA roster, and Jon Rahm also tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be able to compete for Team Spain. Rahm's exit combined with Dustin Johnson's decline to compete in the Olympics, means World No. 3 and Champion Golfer of the Year Collin Morikawa will be the top ranked player in the field. Just who everyone that it would be two years ago right?
There will be no spectators on the grounds this week, giving a weird vibe that brings many back to the return of golf after the break in the summer of 2020. There's been many that have tried to compare Kasumigaseki to courses on Tour. People have said things from Quail Hollow to Harbour Town to Spyglass Hill. It's a tree-lined course where you won't always need to hit driver. There is also expected to be quite a bit of precipitation throughout the week and temperatures to extend into the low-90's. The good news is that the zoysia grasses should be able to take the heavy rainfall and delays shouldn't be expected unless we get lightening. Winds shouldn't extend to more than 10 miles per hour on average throughout the four day event.
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- SG: Putting
Tom Fazio was tasked with trying to modernize this classic and get it ready to host the best in the world. Common in Japan is holes with two greens for different seasons. Instead, he ended up trying to combine them and creating a larger single green on each hole. The putting surfaces will be bentgrass, while the fairways and rough are all Zoysia grasses. Fazio also focused on shifting fairway bunkers to adjust to the distances of today's game. The course will play very long this week, not just because of it being nearly 7,500 yards but also the wet conditions. The tree-lined fairways will make the emphasis on driving the ball well even greater this week. Once players do put it in play, they should be able to attack these large greens and be able to spin everything back. It's just a much different type of challenge than players faced in 2016 at the Rio Olympics course, which was very wide open and exposed to more wind. Fairways and greens should be the name of the game this week, so I'm looking towards the ball-strikers as having the advantage. The bentgrass surfaces should be a comfortable speed for players to be aggressive on. There is definite danger and big numbers lurking around this course, but if you're in control of your ball you should have no problem making birdies.
FanDuel Value Picks
Collin Morikawa ($12,000)
Well, if it does turn out to be a ball-striking fest then FanDuel hit the No. 1 option this week right on the money. Morikawa is miles ahead of the rest of the Tour in SG: Approach. He also leads in SG: Tee-to-green, birdie average, and is second in GIR percentage, ninth in proximity, and 13th in driving accuracy. Morikawa has finished top-four in his last three starts including his second major title at Royal St. George's. While it's unclear how motivated some other players are for the Olympics, Morikawa has made it extremely clear how much this week means to him.
Viktor Hovland ($11,400)
Another member of the same collegiate class, Hovland is an elite ball-striker in his own right. He ranks sixth in SG: Off-the-Tee, 19th in SG: Approach, and ninth in SG: Tee-to-green this season. Hovland is up to a career-high 11th in the OWGR after his win at the BMW International Open and a T12 at the Open Championship. A medal would give him his eighth top-three finishes since December.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,300)
A positive COVID-19 test last month has given Matsuyama plenty of time to get refreshed and ready to go for a medal in his home country. If anyone is going to have any familiarity with this course it will be Matsuyama, who won his way into the Masters here in 2010. The 29-year-old is 15th in SG: Approach and 17th in SG: Tee-to-Green this season. He thrives when courses become wet and soft.
Paul Casey ($11,000)
Casey will be hoping to give Great Britain their second gold medal in golf. There is an added sense of urgency for the 44-year-old knowing this is probably his only shot at an Olympic medal. Casey is another master ball-striker, ranking second in SG: Approach, seventh in SG: Tee-to-Green, fifth in total driving, and 20th in proximity to the hole. The Englishman is coming in with great form, having top-15 in four of his last five starts.
Longer Shots with Value
Guido Migliozzi ($8,900)
The young Italian really rose up the rankings this summer thanks to back-to-back runner-up finishes on the European Tour before placing T4 at the U.S. Open and then 13 the week after at the Travelers. Migliozzi has averaged over 305 yards off the tee each of the last three seasons on the European Tour. This season he also ranks 24th in GIR percentage and fourth in scoring average.
Mackenzie Hughes ($8,600)
After a very difficult month of May, Hughes has turned a corner posting top-15 finishes in three of his last four starts, highlighted by his T6 showing at the Open Championship. The Canadian is a little different that many other's on this list in the fact that he relies more on his putting to take him to good finishes, but this recent uptick in performance has a lot to do with his iron play as well. Hughes was T3 two starts ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in GIR.
Jhonattan Vegas ($8,500)
Vegas has been coming on as of late. A T2 last week at the 3M Open was his fourth top-11 finish in his last six starts. Vegas is one of the best drivers on Tour, ranking fourth in SG: Off-the-tee and ninth in driving distance. He will be able to carry a few more of the bunkers that may give him an advantage on some holes. Vegas also has the advantage of having already played in an Olympics back in 2016 in Rio.
Mito Pereira ($7,800)
After an incredible start to the season on the Korn Ferry Tour, Pereira has taken advantage of his limited opportunities on the PGA Tour this summer. The last two weeks he has gone T5-T6, showing that the Chilean has some big upside. Albeit very limited rounds, Pereira is gaining 0.937 strokes off the tee and 0.554 strokes approaching the greens per round on the PGA Tour.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
Despite being just a 60-man field, it is still very top heavy even with seven of the top-10 in the OWGR not in attendance. You'd be hard pressed to go wrong with any players in the five-figure range this week, although Justin Thomas ($11,600) hasn't contended anywhere since his win at the Players Championship in March and Rory McIlroy ($11,500) hasn't played well lately either and he has seemed to have an "I'm just here so I don't get fined" attitude whenever talking about the Olympics in recent weeks. There are a lot of weeks in which the bulk of the value can be found in that $9,000-$10,000 range, but that section of the salary board is a bare as I can remember in any PGA FanDuel competition. The good news is that there are quite a few options that are in form and are good fits for this ball-striking challenge that will present itself at Kasumigaseki Country Club in the range of $7,700-$8,900. Other options in that range not mentioned above that I would consider are Thomas Pieters ($8,700), Thomas Detry ($8,300), and Ryan Fox ($8,000).