Top-heavy field for Olympic golf still missing some stars

Jun 22, 2021, 12:07 AM | Updated: 3:53 pm

Four of the top 10 men in the world golf ranking are not going to Japan for the Olympics, only one of them by choice.

The 60-man field was set Tuesday based on the world ranking with a half-dozen late withdrawals, a list that included U.S. Open runner-up Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Tyrrell Hatton of England and Sergio Garcia of Spain.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 2 player in the world, had already said he would not be going because the Tokyo Olympics on July 29 through Aug. 1 are crammed into an already busy golf schedule.

Even so, it was a strong turnaround from Rio de Janeiro when golf returned to the Olympic program for the first time in a century and the world’s best stayed home. Five years ago, with concerns over the Zika virus and security, men’s golf was missing the top four players in the world who had combined to win six of the previous eight majors.

The Tokyo Games have already been postponed once, for a year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are now scheduled for July 23-Aug. 8 with restrictions on athletes’ movement and where they can stay.

American Bryson DeChambeau said he’ll be there — as long as the games go on.

“As of right now, I definitely am going,” he said on Tuesday. “If something was crazy to happen, obviously, we all wouldn’t be going.”

The men’s field still has four of the top five in the world ranking, and five of the past six major champions. That includes Hideki Matsuyama, the first Japanese player to win the Masters.

The women’s field will be set next week.

Jon Rahm of Spain, who returned to No. 1 in the world with his U.S. Open victory, led the qualifiers. He was followed by four Americans — Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and DeChambeau.

“I’ve always wanted to be an Olympian growing up, and to be considered an Olympian is quite an honor,” said DeChambeau, who was one year removed from his amateur days when the Rio field was set.

“When I missed it in Rio in 2016, I was like ‘Man, that’s a goal of mine that I want to check off the list.’ I want to be an Olympian for the American team,” he said. “And I’m very fortunate to say that I’m an Olympian now.”

Three other Americans — Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed — are among the top 10 in the world and didn’t qualify. Countries can have up to four players provided they are among the top 15 in the world. Otherwise, the limit is two until the 60-man field is set.

Garcia, who tied for eighth in Rio Olympics, posted to social media on Monday that his priority to Spain on an international stage was the Ryder Cup. Garcia is six spots out of automatic qualifying for the Ryder Cup through world ranking points. His spot in the Olympics went to Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Oosthuizen, who flew from San Diego to Germany to compete on the European Tour, said on Twitter that he wanted to focus on a strong finish to the PGA Tour season and to honor family commitments. He is preparing for farm life after buying an 86-acre ranch in Ocala, Florida.

Garrick Higgo, the dynamic 22-year-old who won on the PGA Tour two weeks ago, represents South Africa along with Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood each turned down spots for Britain. Hatton is No. 11 in the world and was the top qualifier. Fitzpatrick narrowly lost out on what would have been the second qualifying spot to Paul Casey at the U.S. Open. Westwood had said earlier he was not planning to go.

That left Casey and Tommy Fleetwood from England to wave the Union Jack.

Adam Scott of Australia has been opposed to golf in the Olympics and was never planning to go. The Aussies will have Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman. Also withdrawing were Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and Martin Kaymer of Germany.

The field does not include the three medalists from Rio.

Justin Rose, who won the gold medal in 2016, has fallen to No. 44 in the world and would have needed one more British player to withdraw. He was No. 14 in the world when the pandemic shut down golf in March 2020, and ultimately postponed the Olympics.

Silver medalist Henrik Stenson is mired in a slump. He was the British Open champion when he played in the previous Olympics. Now he is No. 155 in the world, and Sweden’s two spots went to Alex Noren and Henrik Norlander. Matt Kuchar won the bronze. He now is the 31st-ranked American.

Only nine of the top 100 in the world turned down their Olympic spots.

The men’s field will be represented by 30 countries, with newcomers such as Poland (Adrian Meronk) and Slovakia, which has Rory Sabbatini. The South African-born Sabbatini became a naturalized citizen in December 2018 through his wife.

___

AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this story.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, rear, fouls Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga during ...
Associated Press

Fontecchio lifts Jazz past Warriors in short-handed matchup

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Simone Fontecchio dunked with 1.4 seconds remaining off Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s steal and the Utah Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors 124-123 on Wednesday night in a matchup of short-handed teams. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins sat out for Golden State, while Utah was missing Lauri Markkanen and Mike […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Lawrence’s free throws give Vanderbilt 75-74 win over Pitt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tyrin Lawrence’s two free throws with 1.1 seconds left gave Vanderbilt a 75-74 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Pitt had taken the lead after Nelly Cummings capped an 8-0 run with a midrange jumper with 14.3 seconds remaining. Coming out of a timeout, Quentin Millora-Brown drove the baseline and passed […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Pearson scores 20 as Ball State takes down E. Illinois 76-59

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) — Mickey Pearson Jr. had 20 points in Ball State’s 76-59 victory against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday night. Pearson had nine rebounds for the Cardinals (5-4). Payton Sparks scored 12 points while shooting 6 of 9 from the field. Jarron Coleman shot 3 for 9, including 3 for 7 from beyond the […]
21 hours ago
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) wears sneakers with logos covered in tape with the words "I A...
Associated Press

Irving touts freedom on game sneakers after split with Nike

Kyrie Irving is a sneaker free agent and he used the Brooklyn Nets’ game Wednesday night to advertise it. Irving played with tape covering the logo on his black sneakers, two days after Nike ended its relationship with him. “I AM FREE Thank you God … I AM,” was written in gold marker on the […]
21 hours ago
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and Atlanta Hawks forward AJ Griffin (14) vie for a rebo...
Associated Press

Randle, Knicks win 113-89 after Hawks lose another starter

NEW YORK (AP) — Though Trae Young’s sneakers proclaimed him the “King of Broadway,” Julius Randle was the one who ruled things inside Madison Square Garden. Randle had 34 points and 17 rebounds and the New York Knicks capitalized on another key Atlanta Hawks injury to coast to a 113-89 victory Wednesday night. Randle made […]
21 hours ago
Toronto Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby hangs from the rim as he watches his shot bounce off the rim d...
Associated Press

Siakam scores 25 points, Raptors rout short-handed Lakers

TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 25 points and 10 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors routed Los Angeles 126-113 on Wednesday night, beating a short-handed Lakers team playing without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. James sat out because of a sore left ankle, one night after he played 36 minutes in a 116-102 loss at […]
21 hours ago
Top-heavy field for Olympic golf still missing some stars