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Handicapping

The Olympic Golf Championship Picks

Event: The Olympic Golf Championship
When: August 11-14, 2016
Where: Olympic Golf Course Ė Brazil
TV: NBC
by: Evergreen of Predictem.com

I have been writing golf columns for over ten years now so taking on a completely new event is something pretty special. Golf is making its return to Olympic competition for the first time since 1904 so Iím guessing the list of handicappers that have written about Olympic golf competition is pretty slim.

Over the last couple of months, we have heard plenty of about conditions in Rio, the Zika virus and about athletes not competing due to a variety of concerns. That has been most evident in golf as the very biggest names on Tour have chosen to not compete this week. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott are all not in attendance for this event. Their concerns are valid and I support their decision but I am left wondering how great this championship could have been if they and others were teeing it up.

There are sixty men slated to compete in a 72-hole stroke play tournament at Campo Olimpico de Golfe, highlighted by four American qualifiers. Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar were all inside the top-15 at selection time, giving the U.S. the maximum four golfers allowed. The remaining competitors come from across the world, led by Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia. Many have played at least some on the PGA Tour, most of the rest have seen professional action in Europe or Asia so this is a legitimate field even if it is small. The top-3 will win the medals with a three-hole playoff breaking any ties in those medal positions.

The biggest wildcard in a wildcard event is the course itself. The Olympic Golf Course was built specifically for this championship and there were significant challenges in the design. The course had to appropriately allow both the male and female competitors the same kind of playing scenarios and it had to be built to survive the not-so-friendly climate conditions. What was decided upon became a 7,128 yard, par-71 layout. There are not a lot of courses in Brazil so elements from golf design from around the world were utilized. A salt tolerant grass was used to allow brackish water as part of the irrigation and there will be no trees so the look will be more British Open than U.S. Open. There is also no rough. The fairways run immediately into sandy collection areas filled with native grasses. That is reminiscent of desert golf in the U.S. and does put a premium on shot control as the rough will not be there to keep balls out of those scrubby areas. There are three different kinds of sand on this course so players will be challenged to correctly identify the best shot depending on where they are on the course. All in all, it should be an interesting puzzle to solve and the winds are expected to be moderate to high during competition. A dry, fast course could prove difficult but all indications are that the most talented players will score here and the proverbial cream should rise to the top.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best bets. There is quite a bit of action floating around and the Olympic golf betting is an apples-to-apples comparison to a regular Tour event so here are our picks to win the Olympic Gold. Our top choice for Olympic golf betting is Bovada Sportsbook, where new clients can get up to $250 free to bet with their 50% deosit bonus!

Sergio Garcia (7 to 1) Garcia is probably the most experienced player in this field when it comes to international competition. He has been a Ryder Cup fixture since 1999 and has 21 professional wins outside of the PGA Tour. That global experience should give him a comfort level on an unfamiliar course and he has a bigger bag of tricks than many from years of playing links style golf. He has improved his putting to become a good lag putter at least and that has limited the painful short misses that plagued him in the middle 2000ís. He was 5th at both the U.S. and British Opens this season so he is in good form and remains a gutsy, go-for-it player. I think that attitude could play well in a competition where a tie for 6th is meaningless. He is also a bit of a bust risk because of that potential attitude but I think there is more to gain there than to lose.

Matt Kuchar (18 to 1) You will have to forgive him for not knowing the format of the event, I guess Matt was really looking forward to some team golf. He will have to play for personal interests only and in my opinion, he is the most complete player in this competition when you factor in the emotional and mental side of the game. Kuchar appears to not be rattled by anything and never deviates away from a well-proven plan. His physical game lacks an elite strength but he controls the ball well and he should benefit greatly if this course puts a very diverse challenge in front of the players. You have to like his top-40 marks in both fairways and greens hit alongside top-21 ranks in birdies, scoring (8th) and scrambling. He is a solid sand player so he can handle it he finds some of the 79 bunkers here. If slow-and-steady wins this race, Kuch will be a medalist.

Emaliano Grillo (25 to 1) The 23-year old Argentinian made a name for himself by winning the Frys.com back in the fall part of the schedule shortly after winning the Web.com Tour Championship. He has missed just three cuts this season and has moved to 39th in the OWGR. He has T12 and T13 finishes in the US Open and PGA Championship from this season and has not missed a cut in any of his five Majors as a pro. You might think he is short on experience given his age but he was teeing it up at 17 years old on the Euro Tour before heading to the States. He is one of the best total drivers on Tour, ranking second in that category so you like his chances of using both his length and accuracy off the tee. We will see what method is more effective but he putts well enough to net the 44th best birdie average no matter how he decided to tackle the tee-to-green challenge. He is one of the players most helped by the absence of those big names as it moves him from a likely 12th-ish place finish to medal contention.

Nicolas Colsaerts (60 to 1) There are many players here that are just along for an Olympic ride but I donít think Colsaerts is one, despite his long odds to win. The Belgian was a Ryder Cupper in 2012 and has Volvo Match Play and China Open victories on his career record. He seems a bit off from his peak performances in 2011-12 but he was 3rd at this yearís Nordea Masters and Scottish Open so he can still get it done. He has plenty of experience in international competition going back to his junior days so he shouldnít be fazed by the environment. He is a long player and hits a lot of greens as a result. He will have plenty of scoring clubs in his hands on approach at the short Olympic course and birdie chances will be there. He is a below average putter but Iím not giving anyone a significant advantage on greens that no one has seen before. If he can be just a bit better than the field average for putting, he will be medal relevant heading into the final round.

Head to Head Matches Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes for single round matches and prop bets.

Justin Rose v. Bubba Watson (pick to win: Rose) Both players are long by Tour standards so it will be interesting to see how they use that length on a course that doesnít require the long drive. Rose is a bit better at hitting the fairway but Watson hits a few more greens so the difference here should come down to who figures out the greens the best or at least the quickest. Neither possesses an elite putter in terms of overall average but Rose is more familiar with putting on a variety of surfaces and that seems like a benefit that will pay off. I love Bubba but I think he does best when he knows how to attack a course and where not to play. He has played remarkably at Augusta for years now but this course is about as far from the Masters as you could imagine. A little discomfort for Watson tips the scales to Rose.

Rickie Fowler v. Patrick Reed (pick to win: Fowler) Iím leaning on the probability that this course will reward tee-to-green play more than putting performance. That gives Fowler the advantage due to better stats in fairways and greens hit and limits Reedís edges in the putting categories. Rickie averages more birdies and scores better but those numbers are close. What isnít close is that Fowler remains one of the best overall talents when looking at tee shot and approach performance and that isnít how Reed gets it done most days. Both guys have spoken passionately about the chance to represent their country so I wouldnít be surprised to see them near the top but Rickie has an edge in this match.

Good luck and good golf!

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