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With Under One Year To Go To Tokyo, These Golfers Are Early Contenders For Olympic Spots

By Todd Kortemeier | Aug. 14, 2020, 3:50 p.m. (ET)

There are plenty of familiar names dotting the top of the Olympic Golf Rankings, such as past major champs Brooks Koepka and Danielle Kang. But with just under one year to go until the rescheduled Olympic Games Tokyo 2021 there is plenty of time for things to change, and change quickly, as evidenced by this past weekend’s PGA Championship.

At Harding Park in San Francisco, 23-year-old Collin Morikawa shot a 5-under 65 and a 6-under 64 over the weekend to win his first major championship in just his second attempt. Now Morikawa finds himself No. 4 in the rankings, announcing his arrival to the world of golf and his contention for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.

There’s a long way to go, of course. In a normal year, the PGA would have been in May and Team USA golfers would have been swinging for gold medals in Tokyo this past Saturday. But with the Games postponed a year, the qualification period for golf now ends June 21, 2021, for men and June 28 for women. 

The Olympic Golf Rankings are based on the world golf rankings for men and women. Players are ranked based on their finish in tournaments, with tournaments weighted based on the strength of the field of players and proximity to the Olympic Games. As many as four men and four women per country can qualify, so long as all are ranked among the top 15. Otherwise, each country has a maximum of two men and two women to fill out the 60-person fields.

From relative newcomers like Morikawa to experienced pros like Kang, these are the Team USA golfers to watch from now until June, with their rankings as of August 10, 2020.

Justin Thomas plays a shot on the 13th hole at the 2020 PGA Championship on Aug. 07, 2020 in San Francisco.

 

Men's
Justin Thomas, No. 2
Thomas, No. 1 in the world as of last week, struggled at Harding Park to finish in a tie for 37th, 12 strokes back. But the 27-year-old has three wins to his credit in 2019-20 and is No. 1 in the standings for the FedEx Cup.

Collin Morikawa, No. 4
Morikawa shot up the rankings after his unexpected victory in San Francisco, claiming just the third PGA win of his pro career. Morikawa will have a shot at No. 1 as early as two weeks from now at the Northern Trust.  

Webb Simpson, No. 5
The relative elder statesman of top U.S. men’s contenders, the 35-year-old Simpson hasn’t won a major since 2012 but has been a consistent player in recent years, finishing top 10 in the money list in 2018 and 2019. Simpson has two victories on tour in 2020.

Brooks Koepka, No. 6
The former world No. 1, Koepka is a four-time major winner. The 30-year-old was in contention for his third PGA Championship in a row, two strokes back at 7-under par on Saturday. But a disastrous final round saw him shoot 4-over par and tie for 29th. 

Other Notables
Among Americans, the men’s rankings are particularly bunched up following the top four currently in qualifying position. Just behind Koepka in eighth and ninth are Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, a 2016 Olympian. Then there is Xander Schauffele in 11th and Patrick Cantlay in 12th. Then lurking in 16th is Tiger Woods, who has played sparingly this season but does have a 2019 Masters win on his record. Woods has struggled to make cuts at majors in recent years, but shot a solid -1 at Harding Park to finish in a tie for 37th with Thomas and Simpson, among others. To show how quickly things can change, Morikawa jumped from 12th to fourth with his PGA victory, meaning players are able to make big leaps with those big victories.

Danielle Kang plays her tee shot at the 3rd hole at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open on Aug. 13, 2020 in North Berwick, Scotland.


Women's
Danielle Kang, No. 2
The 27-year-old Kang scored her first major victory at the Women’s PGA Championship in 2017 and has improved every year, finishing fourth in the world in 2019. Kang has been the hottest golfer on the LPGA Tour since it resumed its season earlier this month, winning the first two tournaments on the calendar.

Nelly Korda, No. 4
The younger sister of fellow pro golfer Jessica Korda, 22-year-old Nelly is a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour, though she has yet to record a victory in 2019-20. Sister Jessica, 27, ranks 18th overall and is the fourth best American, meaning she’s just shy of the criteria for qualifying as the fourth Team USA woman, though with plenty of time to make that up.

Lexi Thompson, No. 9
Having turned pro at 15, Thompson has been an LPGA Tour regular for 10 years now but is still only 25. Thompson became the youngest-ever winner of an LPGA tournament at 16 in 2011, then the second-youngest major winner at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship. One of three U.S. women to qualify for the 2016 Olympic golf tournament, Thompson has posted a top-10 world ranking every year since 2013.

Other Notables
Lizette Salas ranks just behind Jessica Korda in 21st. Salas has just one career LPGA Tour win in 2014 but finished in the top five at both the 2019 Women’s PGA and Women’s British Open. 

 

Todd Kortemeier

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.

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