Best three-ball bets for Thursday at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: Hovland, Fleetwood fast out of the gate

Viktor Hovland tees off on the 3rd hole during the final round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament.
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Ricky Dimon

Golf

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

With Jon Rahm out of the Olympics, the door to a gold medal is open for the rest of the field. Okay, it’s not like Rahm would have been a lock to win; obviously that isn’t the case. But he was a substantial favorite before withdrawing due to a positive Covid-19 test, so his absence does throw a wrench in the equation. Bryson DeChambeau is sidelined for the same reason, although based on current form that is not as big of a factor as Rahm’s ouster.

Whatever the case, the golf competition in Tokyo gets underway. Who is in likely to get off to a fast start in round one? Here are our best three-ball bets for Thursday.

Xander Schauffele (+115) over Abraham Ancer and Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Schauffele was among our best pre-tournament bets, and obviously nothing has changed now that Rahm and DeChambeau are out of the equation. Well, one thing has changed: he is now +900 to win gold after originally being +1000. The American has three top-11 finishes in his last four starts and in all four of those events he shot in the 60s (68, 69, 67, 69). Ancer has broken 70 only once in his last six opening rounds (a 69 at the British Open before he shot 71, 71, 71 to tie for 59th place). Bezuidenhout has hot in the 60s in only three of his last 11 appearances. Look for Schauffele to start strong…and to finish strong for that matter, too.

Xander Schauffele hits a tee shot at the 2020 Genesis Open.

Viktor Hovland (+130) over Cameron Smith and Garrick Higgo

Hovland won the BMW International Open last month and then placed T12 at the British Open. He has every reason to continue his fine form in Tokyo, because the course has zoysia grass fairways and bent grass greens and was redesigned by Tom Fazio in 2014. Hovland is a product of Oklahoma State University, where his home course had zoysia fairways, bent grass greens, and was designed by—you guessed it—none other than Fazio. The Norwegian opened with a 68 at both the BMW and the British Open, which is obviously encouraging for his round-one prospects at the Olympics. Higgo has a struggled bigtime since winning on the PGA Tour earlier this summer, so this bet might as well be Hovland vs. Smith straight up. At +130, there is plenty of value on Hovland.

Tommy Fleetwood (+185) over Patrick Reed and Shane Lowry

Fleetwood was struggling earlier in the season, but he heads into Tokyo on the heels of five consecutive cuts made. Best of all for this particular bet is that in four of those five tournaments he has shot 68 or better, and on three of the occasions it was 67 or better. Reed was the last addition to the Olympics field, replacing DeChambeau on the American quartet following DeChambeau’s withdrawal. There has been little to no warmup time for Reed since arriving in Tokyo, so a slow start would not be surprising. As for Lowry, he has broken 70 only once in his last seven opening rounds—and that was right on the number at 69 last month at the Memorial.

The Pickswise golf handicappers are on hand with expert Golf Picks and Golf Predictions as well as tournament previews and analysis throughout the PGA Tour, including all of the majors and the Olympics.

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