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Men's Olympic golf qualifying for Tokyo closes, but will more drop out due to COVID concerns?

June 21, 2021

Kasumigaseki Country Club will be the host site for the 2021 Olympic Golf Tournament next month.

The Asahi Shimbun

With the U.S. Open being the final high-profile tournament for male golfers to earn Olympic Ranking points and qualify for the Summer Games next month in Tokyo, expectations were heightened that there might be movement on the points list among players between and within countries.

Too heightened as it turned out.

When the ranking became official on Monday, no golfer either jumped into the top 60 of the ranking or fell out. (Complete team listings are below.) This occurred despite the possibility of jostling of spots on Sunday afternoon during the volatile final round at Torrey Pines.

Arguably, the tightest team race entering the final weekend of qualifying was for a spot on the American roster with 10 of the top 15 players in the world hailing from the U.S. The foursome of golfers who ultimately qualified to play in Japan include Justin Thomas (No. 3 in the World Ranking), Collin Morikawa (4), Bryson DeChambeau (5) and Xander Schauffele (6).

On the outside looking in were Patrick Cantlay (7), Brooks Koepka (8), Patrick Reed (9), Webb Simpson (13) and Tony Finau (15). Had Kopeka, who finish T-4 at Torrey Pines, won or finished solo second on Sunday, mathematically he would have passed Schauffele to grab the final spot.

A total of 60 golfers will be competing in the 72-hole stroke play format at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan, about 35 miles northwest of downtown Tokyo. The men's tournament will be July 29-Aug. 1. Between one and four golfers can compete from any one country, based on their place in the Olympic Rankings, which are a modified version of the World Ranking. All players inside the top 15 qualify so long as they are among the top four players within their country.

While there was no last-minute sneaking into the top 60 on the Olympic list over the weekend, earlier in the month a few players jumped in and out of the ranking. Garrick Higgo’s win at the Palmetto Championship allowed him to move past Christiaan Bezuidenhout for the second of two spots from South Africa. But Louis Oosthuizen deciding to withdraw his name when the final ranking came out, gets Bezeuindenhout back in the field. In May, Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino stayed home to play on the Japan Tour and used two tournament wins to pass Takumi Kanaya, who was playing over in the U.S. on sponsor’s exemptions. Hoshino will join Hideki Matsuyama as Japan’s representative into their home Olympic Games.

There was potential for drama as to how the Great Britain squad would shake out as well. Paul Casey had jumped Matthew Fitzpatrick a few weeks ago in the ranking for the second spot, along with Tyrrell Hatton. Both were in the mix briefly at Torrey Pines, but when Casey finished tied for seventh, his spot on the team was locked in. The most volatility, however, came when the final ranking was released. Then we discovered that Hatton and new first alternate Fitzpatrick had withdrawn their names. Lee Westwood, who would have jumped into that second spot with Casey, was already on the record as a nay. So Tommy Fleetwood jumps into that second spot for Great Britain.

All this said, there is still potential for some roster shake-ups between now and the Olympics. There is further potential for players who qualified to opt out of competing. Germany's Martin Kaymer and Spain's Sergio Garcia joined Hatton, Fitzpatrick, Oosthuizen, and others as late WDs when the final ranking came out. The harsh reality of strict COVID protocols that will be applied to athletes in Tokyo, including a ban on attending other Olympic events and a requirement to stay in an IOC-approved hotel nearly two hours from the golf course, might cause others to decide to pass on their spot. Dustin Johnson of the U.S., and Adam Scott of Australia were among the earliest and most high-profile players to take a pass on the games.

Prior to his victory at the U.S. Open, Jon Rahm noted that the International Olympic Committee wasn’t “making it easy” for golfers to compete. In addition to the restrictions, a crowded calendar of big events makes taking a trip to Japan in the height of the season a challenge.

“I can understand why a lot of people are prioritizing the FedEx Cup events and great golf events,” Rahm said. “The Olympics are relatively new for golf, and I don't blame them.”

MEN OLYMPIC QUALIFIERS (World Ranking in parenthesis)

Argentina
Emiliano Grillo (74)

Australia
Cameron Smith (28)
Marc Leishman (43)
Next in line: Matt Jones (62), Jason Day (71)

Editors' Note: Adam Scott announced that he has taken his name out of consideration for this year's Olympics. Scott would otherwise be among the top two ranked players from Australia.

Austria
Matthias Schwab (118)
Sepp Straka (174)

Belgium
Thomas Detry (94)
Thomas Pieters (107)

Canada
Corey Conners (36)
Mackenzie Hughes (63)
Next in line: Adam Hadwin (101)

Chile
Joaquin Niemann (31)
Mito Pereira (146)

China
Carl Yuan (291), Ashun Wu (315)
Next in line: Ding Wenyi (330), Xinjun Zhang (343), Haotong Li (348)

Chinese Taipei
C.T. Pan (181)

Colombia
Sebastian Munoz (67)

Czech Republic
Ondrej Lieser (231)

Denmark
Rasmus Hojgaard (121)
Joachim B. Hansen (151)

Finland
Kalle Samooja (117)
Sami Valimaki (122)
Next in line: Mikko Korhonen (195)

France
Victor Perez (37)
Antoine Rozner (78)

Germany
Maximilian Kieffer (193)
Hurly Long (263)
*Editors' Note: Martin Kaymer, ranked 99 in the world, declined his spot.

Great Britain
Paul Casey (20)
Tommy Fleetwood (33)
Editors' Note: Tyrrell Hatton (ranked 11 in the world), Matt Fitzpatrick (ranked 21), Lee Westwood (ranked 27) declined to go.

India
Anirban Lahiri (340)

Ireland
Rory McIlroy (10)
Shane Lowry (42)
Next in line: Padraig Harrington (158), Graeme McDowell (163)

Italy
Guido Migliozzi (72)
Francesco Molinari (133)
Next in line: Renato Paratore (180)

Japan
Hideki Matsuyama (16)
Rikuya Hoshino (76)
Next in line: Takumi Kanaya (85), Shugo Imahira (135), Ryo Ishikawa (156)

Malaysia
Gavin Kyle Green (286)

Mexico
Abraham Ancer (23)
Carlos Ortiz (53)

New Zealand
Ryan Fox (178)

Norway
Viktor Hovland (14)
Kristian K. Johannessen (292)

Paraguay
Fabrizio Zanotti (280)

The Philippines
Juvic Pagunsan (216)

Poland
Adrian Meronk (189)

Puerto Rico
Rafael Campos (281)

Slovakia
Rory Sabbatini (167)

South Africa
Garrick Higgo (39)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (46)
*Editors' Note: Louis Oosthuizen (ranked  12 in the world) declined to go. Next in line: Branden Grace (60), Daniel von Tonder (79), Erik van Rooyen (87), Dylan Frittelli (88)

South Korea
Sungjae Im (26)
Si Woo Kim (49)
Next in line: Joohyung Kim (124), Byeong Hun An (134)

Spain
Jon Rahm (1)
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (140)
*Editors' Note: Sergio Garcia (ranked 48 in the world) declined to go.

Sweden
Alex Noren (93)
Henrik Norlander (136)
Next in line: Henrik Stenson (155), Marcus Kinhult (176)

Thailand
Jazz Janewattananond (129)
Gunn Charoenkul (260)

United States
Justin Thomas (3)
Collin Morikawa (4)
Bryson DeChambeau (5)
Xander Schauffele (6)
Next in line: Patrick Cantlay (7), Brooks Koepka (8), Patrick Reed (9), Webb Simpson (13), Tony Finau (15)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite being the No. 2 ranked player in the world, which would qualify for the U.S. team, Dustin Johnson is not listed in the official Olympic Rankings because he said that he would not compete in the games.

Venezuela
Jhonattan Vegas (130)

Zimbabwe
Scott Vincent (237)