One year later than expected, Olympic men’s golf begins Wednesday night in Saitama, Japan. The field of 60 was shuffled near the top as world No. 1 Jon Rahm of Spain, the favorite at 5-1, had to withdraw due to another positive COVID-19 test. His first positive came after the third round of the Memorial Tournament, when Rahm had a six-stroke lead before being forced to withdraw. Two weeks later, Rahm won his first major at the U.S. Open. This has clearly been a tumultuous year for the world No. 1.
With Rahm out, British Open champion Collin Morikawa is the favorite at 7-1. Fellow Team USA members Xander Schauffele (9-1) and Justin Thomas (11-1) follow in the marketplace. Three of Schauffele’s four PGA Tour victories have come in smaller-field events. Thomas has had an up-and-down year but did win the Players Championship against one of the world’s best fields. World No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau was supposed to be the fourth member of Team USA but also had to drop out due to a positive COVID-19 test. So Patrick Reed (18-1) takes his spot. Reed has had a down year despite his runaway win at the Farmers Insurance Open in February, but he loves international competitions and tied for 11th at the last Olympics in Rio.
Viktor Hovland (12-1) of Norway and Rory McIlroy (12-1) of Ireland are the top-ranked Europeans in the field, with Paul Casey (16-1) of Britain close behind. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (14-1) had the defining moment of his career with his first major victory at the Masters in April. Nevertheless, it might be more important to him to win the Olympic gold medal as the face of golf in his home nation. He has won two events at this venue, the 2009 Japan Junior and the 2010 Asia-Pacific Amateur.