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Olympic medal would exempt Im, Kim from military service

Winning an Olympic medal in men’s golf would mean much more to Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim than winning a major.

In fact, both South Korean golfers skipped the British Open to focus on the Olympic tournament, which tees off at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday in Saitama, Japan.

That’s because a medal would exempt them from their nation’s two-year mandatory military service for all males between the ages of 18 and 28.

Im, 23, is 30-1 to win the gold medal and Kim, 26, is 52-1.

Handicapper Wes Reynolds, co-host of VSiN’s “Long Shots” golf betting show, recommends Im as one of his best bets to win the tournament.

“Im played his first two full professional seasons on the Japan Golf Tour, so this event is a bit of a homecoming for him,” said Reynolds (@WesReynolds1). “He has had a bit of a slow year with just three top 10s in 21 starts, but a tie for eighth last month at the Rocket Mortgage Classic is encouraging. Plus, he is a very solid putter on Bentgrass as evident by his tie for second at the Masters in 2020.

“Furthermore, the motivation of avoiding having to take two years off for military service cannot be overstated.”

Fresh off winning the British Open, Las Vegas resident Collin Morikawa is the 7-1 favorite at the Westgate to garner gold.

Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is the 12-1 fourth choice. He is also the money and ticket leader at the Westgate to win in his homeland of Japan.

But Reynolds has targeted longer shots for his best bets. Here are his other plays and comments on each:

Paul Casey, 16-1

“The 44-year-old Casey’s recent comments have seemed to indicate how excited he is to represent Team Great Britian in not only the Olympics, but likely the Ryder Cup this fall. When you are an older player, the opportunities to do so are fleeting.

“Casey has posted seven top-10 finishes or better, including two in majors, in his last 15 starts. He also putts better on Bentgrass and has a few of his career wins in Asia.”

Cameron Smith, 24-1

“Australia’s Smith has shown his mettle in international competition, finishing second at the 2018 World Cup of Golf with partner and fellow Aussie Marc Leishman and defeating Justin Thomas in Sunday singles matches at the 2019 President’s Cup.

“Smith began his professional career on the Asian Tour, so he should be comfortable on this course.”

Joaquin Niemann, 24-1

“Chile’s Niemann had started off the season hot with back-to-back runners-up in Hawaii and then cooled a bit until a few weeks ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, where he went bogey-free for 72 holes. Then he bogeyed the first playoff hole to settle for another runner-up finish.”

Thomas Pieters, 72-1

“Belgium’s Pieters finished fourth at the Olympics in 2016, when a third-round 77 kept him out of the medals.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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