Collin Morikawa leads the US challenge at the Olympics
Collin Morikawa leads the US challenge at the Olympics Image Credit: Reuters

As if winning The Open wasn’t enough of a confidence booster ahead of a first Olympic Games challenge, Collin Morikawa was given an extra fillip as he moved up to No. 3 in the world on Monday — a career high.

Morikawa, 24, added the Claret Jug to his 2020 PGA crown and is making a real statement ahead of Team USA’s bid for the medals in Japan. There is a real prospect of a podium sweep for the United States, and that is without their best-ranked player.

World No. 2 Dustin Johnson has opted to skip the Olympics as he targets the season-ending PGA FedEx Cup, but the Americans still boast the Nos. 3 to 6 in the world with their four representatives: 14-time PGA winner Justin Thomas, Open champ Morikawa, Mr Consistent Xander Schauffele and the Scientist and monster hitter Bryson DeChambeau. It will be a real disappointment for the States if one or two of them are not on the podium come Sunday, August 1.

That’s not to say they won’t be given a stiff challenge from all corners of the globe.

Jon Rahm of Spain
Jon Rahm of Spain Image Credit: AP

Jon Rahm has just reclaimed top spot in the world thanks to his third-place finish at Royal St George’s and the US Open champ would be the toast of Spain if he can return with a gold medal around his neck.

Ireland’s Rory McIlroy has had an up-and-down season but the Olympics has been earmarked in bold highlighter on his schedule this year having missed out on Rio five years ago due to fears over the Zika virus. The world No. 15 is more than up for it this time around alongside 2020 Open champion Shane Lowry.

Norway’s Viktor Hovland, home hope Hideki Matsuyama, Abraham Ancer of Mexico, South Korea’s Im Sung-jae and Aussie Cameron Smith will all also fancy their chances after great campaigns so far in 2021.

Then there is Team GB’s Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood, who will be hoping to emulate Justin Rose, who claimed gold in Brazil.

Corey Conners has hopes for Canada at the Olympics
Corey Conners has hopes for Canada at the Olympics Image Credit: AFP

Even Canada — not exactly world famous for producing a vast wealth of top golfers — have two men in form. Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes have been making regular appearances in top 10s on the PGA Tour of late and finished tied 15th and sixth at The Open last week,

The beauty of golf at the Olympics — compared to, say, football or gymnastics — is that there will be no out-and-out favourite and it will all come down to four days of determination, mental state, nerves and perseverance (not to mention conditions and favourable tee times) to get any of these guys to the top of the heap.

Games on.