Tiger Woods' Tokyo 2020 dream remains alive

Freezing of Olympic Golf Ranking and postponement of Games means American great still has qualification chance.

By ZK Goh

Tiger Woods has likely received a Tokyo 2020 reprieve.

With the postponement of the Olympic Games to 2021, some athletes who are currently injured or would miss qualification standards have gained a new opportunity to make it to the Japanese capital.

And despite a stellar 2019, Woods was one of them.

The American golfer won the Masters major championship last April, his 15th major and first such title in 11 years, and then won a record-tying 82nd PGA Tour title in October.

At that tournament in October, Woods reiterated his will to play in the Olympics, saying "it would be an honour to represent my country".

Qualification troubles

However, each country can only qualify a maximum of two or four men for the tournament at the Games based on the Official World Golf Ranking, which doubles as the Olympic Golf Rankings.

Based on the criteria, the U.S. would currently be eligible to send four, the only country which would be able to do so.

Those rankings have now been frozen with golf events suspended due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, and the ranking cut-off date of 22 June will have to be moved.

As it stands, Woods is only the seventh-best American on the list. Dustin Johnson, the world number five, has said he will skip the Olympics. But that would still leave two other golfers ahead of Woods in the race for selection.

Woods struggled with back problems and below-par performances at the start of the year and chose to sit out the eventually-cancelled Players Championship tournament in March, and would have missed out on much-needed ranking points.

The postponement of the Games has therefore come at an opportune time for the 44-year-old, whose Olympic dream remains very much alive.

Lure of the Olympics

The golf great is no stranger to the Olympics.

As an eight-year-old, the young Woods attended the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

He has also had close friends compete at the Games, both in golf and other sports.

"I've never played in the Olympics and I'm sure that I won't have many more opportunities going forward," Woods said last May.

If he manages to make it to Tokyo, he likely won't be the only big name lining up at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who skipped golf's return to the Olympics at Rio 2016, has indicated he will represent Ireland in Tokyo, while world number two Jon Rahm would be in line to represent Spain alongside Sergio García, who finished tied-eighth in Rio.

Even if Woods isn't one of the top four Americans come the new rankings cut-off date, he might only need to look back at Rio for some hope.

Matt Kuchar, the sixth-best American, made it to Brazil due to withdrawals and eventually won the bronze medal.


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