Golf’s biggest stars ready to tee-off in Tokyo

Some of the biggest names in men’s and women’s golf have qualified to tee off at the Tokyo Olympics. Who will be going for gold and how will Covid-19 affect the Games?

In the men’s competition, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau are among the top players who have qualified to play, while Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama will be hoping to win gold in his home country.

Nelly and Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson, Jin Young Ko, Inbee Park and Sei Young Kim will feature in the women’s competition.

The men’s event will be played between July 29 – August 1, and the women’s between August 4-7, at Kasumigaseki Country Club, a private course in the prefecture of Saitama, about 30km north of central Tokyo.

Reigning gold medallist Justin Rose, silver medallist Henrik Stenson and bronze winner Matt Kuchar all failed to qualify for Team GB, Sweden and the USA respectively. But Inbee Park will defend her gold medal from Rio 2016, while silver medalist Lydia Ko and bronze winner Shanshan Feng will also compete again.

Dustin Johnson announced earlier this year that he would not be competing, even if he qualified (which he did), and he was followed by Sergio Garcia (Spain), Tyrrell Hatton (Great Britain), Adam Scott (Australia) and Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa). The only noticeable dropouts in the women’s event are South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace and Great Britain’s Charley Hull.

The full men’s and women’s teams are listed here.

How will Covid-19 affect the Games?

A ban on foreign fans was announced back in March along with a limit of 10,000 domestic spectators per event. But on July 8, Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa announced that there would be no fans at all at the Tokyo Olympics.

Kasumigaseki Country Club

The announcement followed a declaration of a state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures as Covid-19 cases rose. This took effect on July 12 and goes through to August 22. The Olympic Games will take place in that window between July 23 and August 8. One of the prefectures is Saitama, home to Kasumigaseki Country Club, the venue for the Olympic golf competitions.

So, while in the US fans have partially returned to professional golf tournaments, and at The Open at Royal St. George’s in England 32,000 fans a day were present, the Olympics golf tournaments won’t be so lucky.

How did players qualify?

The Olympic field is restricted to 60 players for each of the men’s and women’s competitions. Qualification to make their country’s respective teams was extended by a year as the Tokyo Olympics was pushed back from 2020 due the Covid-19 pandemic.

The International Golf Federation (IGF) used the official world rankings to create the Olympic Golf Rankings as a method of determining qualification. The world’s top 15 players are eligible for the Olympics, with a maximum limit of four players from any country. Beyond the top 15, players are eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

Qualifiers for the men’s competition were announced following Jon Rahm’s US Open victory on June 20. The women’s rankings were set after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was completed on June 27, when Nelly Korda won her first major championship.

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