After 112 years, golf has returned to the Olympic Games. Golf’s various administrators have been campaigning for the move for a number of years but now the run up to golf’s return in Rio has been anything but smooth. The preparations have been rocked by a series of big names pulling out of the games. None of the world’s top five players are in attendance and scores of players are giving Rio a miss. The Zika virus and scheduling issues have been offered up as excuses for not competing but in truth, Olympic golf was simply not attractive enough.
However, there are sure to be a few players regretting their decision already as those players who are in Rio have been posting their experiences on social media. Golfers don’t often get the chance to be part of the team and while the format is a straight knockout, the gold medal winner will be contributing to something much bigger.
So, what will it take to win the gold medal? The players are going to have to quickly get to grips with the brand new Olympic Golf Course designed by Gil Hanse and Amy Alcott. If the weather conditions are benign, the 7,128 yard par 72 layout is going to yield plenty of birdies. There are no trees, little rough to worry about and the track was designed to be playable by amateurs as it will be a public course after the Games. The main concerns for the players will be the high number of bunkers filled with sand native to the area, getting to grips with the three distinct parts of the course, the undulating fairways and the wind which can whip up to give the course an Open like feel.
The way that qualifying works for the Olympics has assembled an eclectic field. More than usual, we are likely to see the winner come from towards the top of the leaderboard and the first of the favourites to back this week is Henrik Stenson at 6/1 with Ladbrokes. Stenson is incredibly happy to be representing his country, he is in phenomenal form right now and showed that he can cope with the wind when he picked up his first major win at the Open.
Another player who is very good at dealing with the wind is Patrick Reed. The American showed his patriotic side at the 2014 Ryder Cup and will be desperate to bag himself a medal and get on that podium. Reed sees himself as one of the best players in the world and this is a chance for him to do something that none of his peers have managed. Expect him to make the most of his sawn off follow through to control his ball flight and go well in Rio at odds of 18/1 with Betfred.
Finally, have a bet on Soren Kjeldsen to win a medal at 18/1 with Paddy Power. Fewer players are as adept at utilising a low ball flight in the wind as the Dane and his ability to hit fairways and greens all week long will surely keep him in contention for a spot on the podium at great odds.