When golf marks its return to the Olympic program after a 112-year hiatus, the United States will send an impressive foursome of men’s talent onto the course at the Reserva de Marapendi in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca zone. All four are among the top eight in the Olympic golf rankings, putting Team USA in contention for multiple medals in Rio.
Bubba Watson (No. 6 in the world, No. 1 in Olympic rankings), Rickie Fowler (No. 7 - world, No. 3 - Olympic), Patrick Reed (No. 14 - world, No. 7 - Olympic) and Matt Kuchar (No. 17 - world, No. 8 - Olympic) will comprise the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Golf Team when tournament play begins Aug. 11. Combined, the four Americans have a total of 23 PGA Tour victories and have won two majors.
Team USA will be the only country with four men's golfers in Rio.
A two-time Masters champion (2012, 2014), Watson, 37, has represented the United States in international play five other times: on three Ryder Cup teams (2010, 2012, 2014) and twice in the Presidents Cup (2011, 2015). No. 5 in the current world rankings, Watson earned the first of his nine PGA Tour titles at the 2010 Travelers Championship, winning on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff against Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank. He has a remarkable 5-1 career record in playoffs. His wife, Angie, was a basketball player who played for the University of Georgia. She played one season with the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting before ongoing injuries forced her to retire.
Fowler, 27, was ranked the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur golfer for 37 weeks during a span from 2007 to 2008. He has three PGA Tour wins to his credit and was named the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. He became the youngest U.S. Ryder Cup player in 2010 (20 years, 9 months). His first PGA Tour victory came at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, when he defeated Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. His career-best finishes in the major championships all came in 2014: tied for fifth at the Masters, tied for second at the U.S. Open and The Open Championship and tied for third at the PGA Championship.
Reed had a red-letter year in 2015, posting his best finishes at each of the four major tournaments: tied for 22nd at the Masters, tied for 14th at the U.S. Open, tied for 20th at The Open Championship and tied for 30th at the PGA Championship. He has four PGA Tour wins, the most notable on March 9, 2014, when he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami, becoming the youngest winner of a WGC event as well as the first PGA Tour player to have three wins before playing his first major, the 2014 Masters. He set the PGA Tour record for most strokes under par (-27) after 54 holes at the 2014 Wyndham Classic. While in high school Reed won the 2006 Junior British Open, then helped Augusta State University to two NCAA championship appearances (2010, 2011). Reed will celebrate his 26th birthday on Aug. 5, the day of the Opening Ceremony in Rio.
A two-time All-American for Georgia Tech, Kuchar won the 1997 U.S. Amateur championship, then received the Haskins Award in 1998, recognizing him as the nation’s top collegiate golfer. That same, Kuchar he was the low amateur at both The Masters and the U.S. Open. His first PGA Tour win came in 2002 at the Honda Classic, but it would be seven and a half years before his next, the 2009 Turning Stone Resort Championship, which he won in a playoff on the sixth extra hole. The 38-year-old has made the cut in his last 13 starts, the longest string in his career, beginning with the 2013 Masters through the 2016 U.S. Open. His wife, Sybi, was a tennis player at Georgia Tech.
The United States won the first Olympic gold medal in men’s golf, presented to Charles Sands at the Paris 1900 Olympic Games. Three other Americans won medals on the links, all at the St. Louis 1904 Olympic Games: Chandler Egan claimed the silver medal and Burt McKinnie and Francis Newton shared bronze. The U.S. also swept all three medals in the team competition in St. Louis, which was comprised of teams of 10 players each. The U.S. women took the top three spots at the 1900 Olympics, the only time women have played golf at the Games.
Women’s golf also makes its Olympic return in Rio. Lexi Thompson (No. 4 in the world and Olympic rankings), Stacy Lewis (No. 8 in world, No. 9 in Olympic) and Gerina Piller (No. 15 in world, No. 13 in Olympic) make up the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Golf Team that will tee up on Aug. 17.