The onset of 2020 looked so promising for Tiger Woods.
Last year he won the Masters – his 15th major championship and first in 11 years – tied Sam Snead for the most victories in PGA Tour history with his win at the Zozo Championship in Japan and further confirmed his return to elite status by being the best player in last year’s Presidents Cup while captaining his troops to victory.
He was healthy, happy and eyeing a defense of his title at the Masters, a chase for a record-setting 83rd PGA Tour title and a pursuit of a berth on the U.S. golf team in the Summer Games in Tokyo.
And then the coronavirus turned into a global pandemic.
His defense of his fifth green jacket is on hold and his hunt for that record-breaking 83rd PGA Tour title suspended as the PGA Tour and most of professional golf is grounded. And after Tuesday’s official postponement of the Tokyo Games to next year, Woods won’t be playing for the red, white and blue this summer on the outside chance he would have made the team.
The postponement of the Olympics is the latest dagger to a sport whose 2020 calendar was stacked with titanic events – the Players Championship; four major championships and four World Golf Championships events; the Summer Games and the Ryder Cup.
The Players was canceled; only one WGC event has been played; the Masters, PGA Championship and Olympics postponed; and the U.S. Open, British Open and Ryder Cup are on the clock as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise around the world.
Woods, who went to the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles when he was 8, and many others including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, No. 2 Jon Rahm and Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama had the Olympics circled on the calendar.
“Over the years, having friends compete in the Olympics, seeing golf be part of the Olympics, it would be an honor to represent my country. Hopefully next year I can have a good year and qualify,” Woods said at the Zozo Championship in October.
Woods and others will now have to wait through another birthday. Woods, 44, who was on the outside of making the team before the Olympics was postponed, presumably will still have time to make the team. Qualifying for Tokyo was to end June 22, but a new date will need to be established.
For now, the Official World Golf Ranking and the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking have been frozen in place until further notice. As was the case in Rio for the 2016 Summer Games when golf returned to the Olympics after a 112-year-absence – and Justin Rose won the gold, Henrik Stenson the silver and Matt Kuchar the bronze – 60 players will be in the field.
The top 15 players in the Olympic Golf Rankings (basically the Official World Ranking) would be eligible, with a maximum of four players per country. There is a maximum of two players per country if that country does not have two or more players ranked in the top 15.
The USA would be represented by Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed. But Johnson has said he wouldn’t play in the Olympics, so Patrick Cantlay would be his replacement. After Cantlay is Webb Simpson. Woods, ranked No. 11, is next. Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau are also ranked in the top 15.
As of right now, McIlroy would lead Ireland, Rose would defend his gold medal for England along with Tommy Fleetwood. Australia would be represented by Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, Spain would field a team of Rahm and Sergio Garcia. Stenson is in line to represent Sweden.
On the women’s side, the most notable name off the list is Inbee Park, who won the gold medal at the Rio Games. Park is at No. 11 in the Rolex Rankings but sits as first alternate behind South Koreans Jin Young Ko, Sung Hyun Park, Sei Young Kim and Eun Jeong Lee6.
The American team would be comprised of Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson. The host country, Japan, would also have three players: Nasa Hataoka, Hinako Shibuno and Ai Suzuki.
Golfweek. . With Olympics postponed, Tiger Woods must wait another year for shot at making U.S. team. Available at: https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/03/24/2020-olympics-postponed-tiger-woods-us-team-qualifying/