Golf·Preview

Canada aims for 1st Olympic golf medal in 117 years amid loaded field in Tokyo

Tokyo 2020 will host only the fourth Olympic golf tournament since 1900. After 1904, the sport wasn’t brought back to the Games until 2016. Now, some of the world’s best players will descend upon Japan. Here’s everything you should know about Olympic golf.

Everything you should know before players step into the tee box at Tokyo 2020

Canada's Brooke Henderson could be the country's best shot to win its first Olympic medal since 1904. (Jed Jacobsohn/The Associated Press)

Tokyo 2020 will host only the fourth Olympic golf tournament since 1900.

After 1904, when Canada's George Lyon won gold, the sport wasn't brought back to the Games until 2016, when England's Justin Rose and Korea's Inbee Park took gold. Now, some of the world's best players will descend upon Japan.

Here's everything you should know about Olympic golf:

Format

Unlike other international competitions like the Ryder Cup, Olympic golf is your regular four-round, 72-hole individual stroke play tournament. Since only 60 competitors are in each tournament, there is no 36-hole cut.

Both the women's and men's tournaments will be played on the east course at Kasumigaseki Country Club, a private course in Saitama which has typically favoured precision over power.

WATCH | Olympic golf, explained:

Sport Explainer: Golf

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Need a refresher on golf? Get to know the sport before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 2:42

Canadian contenders

The best bet to stand on the podium while O Canada plays in the background is Brooke Henderson.

Henderson, ranked seventh in LPGA play, also tied for seventh at the Rio Olympics. The 23-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., already owns the Canadian record for professional golf tour wins, having added her 10th at the Los Angeles Open in April.

Henderson's greatest strength may be her consistency. She rarely finds herself out of a tournament, instead compiling constant sub-par rounds that leave her in the mix in nearly every tournament.

WATCH | Henderson reflects on Rio:

Brooke Henderson: 'Rio was a huge eye-opening experience'

2 years ago
1:56
Brooke Henderson, the winningest pro golfer in Canadian history, says the Olympics is unlike any other event that she's participated in. 1:56

The LA Open victory exemplified that trait — with Henderson shooting four-under on both weekend days, she was able to take advantage of a Sunday collapse from leaders Jessica Korda and Jin Young Ko to win the tournament.

Henderson finished tied for 25th at the Evian Championship, the fourth of five majors on the LPGA Tour, just before heading to Tokyo. Australia's Minjee Lee came back from down seven shots entering Sunday to win the tournament in a playoff.

The other Canadian in the women's field is Alena Sharp, a 40-year-old who collected a top-30 finish in Rio.

But Sharp, ranked 150th, has yet to win an LPGA tournament since joining the tour in 2005.

WATCH | Henderson wins LA Open:

Canadian golfer Brooke Henderson bolsters resumé with 10th LPGA title

7 months ago
2:16
Brooke Henderson captured her 10th career LPGA title on Saturday. The 23-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., already has more LPGA or PGA wins than any other Canadian golfer in history. 2:16

Two golfers trending in the right direction, Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes, will represent Canada in the men's tournament.

Conners, ranked 36th, started the season strongly with top-20 finishes at the Masters and PGA Championship behind an improved short game.

After a missed cut at the U.S. Open amid a small cold streak, Conners bounced back at The Open Championship finishing tied for 15th at 5-under. The Listowel, Ont., native has earned seven top-10 finishes in 2021, including a season-best third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March against a slightly weaker field than he'll see in Tokyo.

Hughes is ranked below Conners at 53th, but recently shone on the brightest stages, entering Sunday at the U.S. Open tied for the lead and finishing tied for sixth at the final major of the year in England.

Hughes owns four top-10 finishes on the season and earned one "podium finish" by taking third at a Punta Cana tournament absent most top names in September.

Both men will make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo after Graham DeLaet and David Hearn represented Canada in Rio.

WATCH | Conners, Hughes aim for Olympic podium in Tokyo:

Canada's Conners, Hughes in fine form as Olympic golf set to tee-off

4 months ago
3:02
Mark Zecchino, host of Golf Talk Canada, previews the men's golf competition that includes Canadians Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes who are making their Olympic debuts. 3:02

International athletes to watch

Both Korea and the U.S. are sending the maximum four women's golfers to Tokyo.

The Korean contingent includes Park, the reigning champion, as well as Ko, who at No. 2 is ranked higher than her compatriot. No. 4 Sei Young Kim and No. 5 Hyoo-Joo Kim round out the team.

The Americans are led by world No. 1 Nelly Korda and her sister, the 13th-ranked Jessica Korda. The duo recently played a tournament together as "Team Jelly."

The Kordas' mother, Regina, competed at the 1998 Olympics in tennis.

On the men's side, the sentimental favourite might be Hideki Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese man to win a major when ran away with the Masters in April. Now, he'll face the added pressure of competing at a home Olympics.

WATCH | Matsuyama wins The Masters:

Hideki Matsuyama becomes 1st golfer from Japan to win Masters

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Matsuyama overcame drama on the back nine to win the Masters by just one stroke. 1:14

Matsuyama missed The Open following a positive COVID-19 test, but remains on track to make his Olympic debut at Kasumigaseki, where he won an amateur tournament in 2010 at 18 years old.

Spain's Jon Rahm, the world No. 1 and one-time favourite, was forced to withdraw from the Olympics after contracting the virus.

World No. 2 Dustin Johnson withdrew from the tournament months ago, but Nos. 3-5 form most of the potent American team: Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele.

Morikawa, who is of Japanese descent, won The Open in his debut, and at 24 already owns two majors in just eight starts. Schauffele might have something extra to play for since his mother was raised in Japan, while Thomas seems to always be in the mix .

WATCH | Morikawa takes home the Claret Jug in England:

Collin Morikawa holds off Jordan Spieth to capture British Open championship

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American golfer Collin Morikawa wins second major championship in eighth start with final round 4-under 66. 4:00

No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau had been scheduled to compete but also tested positive for COVID-19. He will be replaced by former Master champion Patrick Reed.

Ireland's Rory McIlroy is also among the favourites to contend for the podium. 

Meanwhile, all three Rio medallists — Rose, Sweden's Henrik Stenson and American Matt Kuchar — failed to qualify for Tokyo.

Everything else

  • Any ties on the podium are broken in a playoff, meaning we could see a winner crowned while two players must continue on for bronze.
  • Rose hit the first hole-in-one in Olympic golf history en route to gold in 2016.
  • South Korea's Siwoo Kim and Sungjae Im would avoid mandatory military service by winning an Olympic medal.

Key dates (ET)

  • July 28 – July 31: Men's tournament
  • Aug 3 – Aug 6: Women's tournament

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