Wave of big names pass on Olympics, while one country prohibits players from Summer Games due to odd rule
The field for the 2021 Summer Olympics was finalized Tuesday. But the news was not necessarily who is in, but who is not.
Marquee names like Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer were surprising last-second withdrawals from the list of 60 players and their alternates for the Tokyo Games. The drop-outs join Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott to pass on the trip to Japan.
Oosthuizen, who finished runner-up at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, said his focus is on a strong finish to the PGA Tour season and on honoring family commitments.
“Qualifying for the Olympics is a humbling accomplishment and there’s no greater honor than representing your country, so it has been a very difficult decision for me, my team and my family to withdraw from playing in Tokyo,” Oosthuizen said in a statement. Representing South Africa will be Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Garrick Higgo.
Team England saw Hatton and Fitzpatrick turn down invites, with Hatton citing schedule issues. With Lee Westwood stating at the PGA Championship that he wasn’t going to make the trip, the alternate spot goes to Tommy Fleetwood, who joins Paul Casey for the Brits.
Garcia said that it was a difficult decision but “My first priority (is) to represent Spain on the international stage in the Ryder Cup.” Garcia’s spot will be taken by Rafa Cabrera Bello, with fellow Spaniard and U.S. Open champ Jon Rahm also in the field.
“My number one goal is to identify in the European team without having to wait for hopeful invitations,” Garcia said. “Representing Spain in the Olympic Games is an honor and an enormous responsibility that requires 100% of your mental effort.”
As an interesting side development, two Dutch golfers—Joost Luiten and Wil Besseling—qualified for the Olympics, but the Netherlands Olympic committee requires its participants to be ranked in the top 100 in the world ranking. “I would have loved to go to Tokyo, despite the restrictions that will apply due to corona,” Luiten told golfNL. “[The Dutch Olympic committee] proves with what I consider unnecessary extra demands that they understand little about golf. It is common for golfers to win tournaments outside the top 100 in the world.”
For the Americans, while Johnson took his name out of consideration, the top four that were eligible—Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau—are all listed in the field. Should anything happen before the Games, Patrick Cantlay is the team’s first alternate.
The three medal winners from the 2016 Games—Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar—failed to qualify for the event.
The men’s competition at the 2021 Summer Olympics begins July 29 at Kasumigaseki C.C., just outside Tokyo, Japan.