With 14 months remaining in the qualifying period for golf at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Tiger Woods has a long way to go to hold onto the spot he currently holds after winning his fifth green jacket Sunday at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.
But after that miraculous comeback victory, would anyone be surprised?
The Olympic Golf Rankings that will be used to set the field for Tokyo are not yet updated, but Woods is projected to hold one of the top four spots among American golfers, which is the number Team USA will take to Tokyo. Golfers can improve their standing from now until June 22, 2020, when the final rankings will come out. And events later in the qualifying period will be given more weight. So next year’s Masters, for example, will be more valuable to win than 2019 was.
Woods is currently expected to be third in the ranking – and the second American behind top-ranked Dustin Johnson – with Xander Schauffele and Matt Kuchar also slated to qualify if the ranking was to end now, at fourth and fifth.
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Countries can send up to four golfers per gender if all are ranked in the top 15; they can otherwise send up to two.
Golf was not yet an Olympic sport the last time Woods won a major. His previous triumph came at the U.S. Open at San Diego’s Torrey Pines in June 2008. Around the same time, Woods advocated for Olympic golf, which was then being discussed by the International Olympic Committee. Woods and other pros taped video messages in support of adding golf to the Olympic program, which was approved in October 2009 for the Rio 2016 Games.
Woods said then he would play in Rio in 2016 if given the opportunity, but ended up missing all of the 2016 golf season while dealing with back problems. Woods has represented his country before, notably in eight Ryder Cups.
Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.