After a 112-year absence, golf will make its return to The Olympic Games this Thursday as the men’s tournament tees off in Rio de Janeiro. Justin Rose and Danny Willett are going for gold for Team GB.

TAGS:

The debate and controversy surrounding golf’s return to the Olympics can take a back seat from Thursday morning, as the 60 entrants in the Olympic men’s golf competition in Rio begin their quest for a medal.

60 players will tee it up on Thursday; Masters Champion Danny Willett and Justin Rose will represent GB. 2013 U.S. Open champ, Rose is looking forward to the challenge.

“The Olympics has been important to our family,” said Rose. “If you can slip on a medal, that will be unique.”

The Field

60 men will tee it up in the Olympic men’s golf competition, representing 34 countries. Open champion Henrik Stenson is the top ranked player on the start sheet followed by Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Danny Willett.

The USA has four entrants – Watson, Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed. Danny Willett and Justin Rose will represent GB.

Danny Willett swing sequence:

Much of the focus will be on the top-ranked players mentioned above, together with the likes of Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer. But who else might feature?

Jaco Van Zyl – After the withdrawal of many top South Africans, Van Zyl has been keen to make the most of his opportunity in Rio. He missed the USPGA Championship in order to prepare for this event so he should be fully in the zone come Thursday. He’s enjoyed some solid results on this year’s European Tour including a couple of top-10s.

David Lingmerth – Henrik Stenson might be the Swede most will expect to contend, but David Lingmerth could well be in the mix too. He’s a great competitor with a good record in the big events. He was 12th in the U.S. Open and 22nd in the USPGA. He’s a solid shot-maker and that could be important on this track.

Thongchai Jaidee – The veteran Thai player can contend on any course but this layout should suit his excellent iron play. He was a winner at the start of last month in the French Open.

Emiliano Grillo – The talented young Argentinian has been on good form of late. He was right there in the recent USPGA champs until a poor third round, and he’s up into the top-40 on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Key groupings

Brazil’s Adilson da Silva will get the tournament underway. He’s paired with Canada’s Graham DeLaet, whose compatriot George Lyon was the last Olympic golf champion back in 1904, and South Korea’s Ben An, whose parents were both table tennis medalists in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

After that, groups to watch include:

9.03 – Danny Willett, Matt Kuchar, Li Haotong

9.14 – Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Anirban Lahiri

10.25 – Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Emiliano Grillo

10.58 – Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Jhonttan Vegas

11.09 – Henrik Stenson, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thongchai Jaidee

The Course

A Gil Hanse design, the course at Rio should present a different proposition to that the players face week in and week out on the main world Tours. Hanse says he used his creation at Castle Stuart on the Moray Firth as an inspiration, as well as the Australian sandbelt courses.

This 7,128 yard, par 71 layout features no trees and no rough. Balls that fail to find the fairways will either end in sandy waste areas dotted with native long grasses, or in one of the testing bunkers that Hanse has described as the “most dramatic feature on the course.” There are 79 bunkers for the players to avoid.

The course has been constructed on an old sand quarry and this is what has led to the comparisons between the Olympic course and links/sandbelt tracks. Expect to see some run on the fairways and around the greens.

Justin Rose has described the course as having a rugged, “Openish” look to it and, like at The Open, the wind could play a decisive role. If the breeze gets up, the layout will prove testing. But, if it stays calm, expect to see some birdies, particularly on the four short par-4s.

Key Stretch

The finish should be interesting, providing the chance for players to make a dramatic late surge up the board. The 16th is a driveable par-4 of just over 300 yards, the 17th a mere flick at 130 yards and the last is a reachable par-5 of 571 yards. Hanse has said he won’t be surprised if someone finishes with two birdies and an eagle on the final day.

The Weather

As mentioned, the wind could be a factor but it doesn’t look likely in the forecast right now. It’s predicted to be fair, warm and generally rather pleasant. That could allow for some low scoring so watch out for those with the capability to go low.