When the final qualifiers for the men’s golf competition in the Olympic Games were determined last week, the attention was divided between the 60 players who are going to Japan and the familiar names who decided not to play.
The four Americans headed to Japan in July are Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau.
That’s a strong representation with one notable exception. Dustin Johnson, the second-ranked player in the world and the highest-ranked American, is bypassing the Olympics. He made the decision earlier this year.
Under Olympic qualifying rules, the United States can send four players because all are ranked among the top 15 in the world. No other country will have more than two players at Kasumigaseki Country Club for the men’s competition, scheduled for July 29-Aug. 1.
Jon Rahm, the new U.S. Open champion, will represent Spain along with Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who took the spot Sergio García declined.
“This has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life,” García said on social media. “I love the Olympic Games, but my first priority (is) to represent Spain on the international stage in the Ryder Cup. … Representing Spain in the Olympic Games is an honor and an enormous responsibility that requires 100 percent of your mental effort.”
“I’m so excited. It’s going to be one of the best things of my life."
Other top names who are passing on the Olympics include South African Louis Oosthuizen and three Englishmen – Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood. England’s participants will be Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood.
In golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar won gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively. None of them qualified for the Olympics this year.
While much of the attention focused on players who are passing on the Olympic opportunity, others are excited about the opportunity even if they won’t get the full Olympic experience due to rules related to the ongoing global pandemic.
“I’m so excited,” Morikawa said. “It’s going to be one of the best things of my life. To think back that I was an amateur two years ago, literally two years ago, and to be on this team and to be heading to Tokyo puts a smile on my face. I’m really excited.”
Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, who finished T4 at the U.S. Open, will be similarly excited.
“I grew up watching the Olympics on TV,” Migliozzi said. “To be able to play in an Olympic Games is a dream come true. It will be another monster week. A lot of feelings, a lot of vibes, can't wait.”
The women’s Olympic qualifiers will be finalized this week.
Ron Green Jr.