Tiger Woods has fallen outside the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in nearly three years, increasing scrutiny as he tries to qualify for the Olympics over the next 20 months.
Woods, who will be 40 years old during the Rio 2016 Olympics, is No. 23 in this week’s rankings. He hasn’t played since missing the cut at the PGA Championship in August.
Woods took a break to rest an injured back and expects to return to competition in December, though he won’t play a PGA Tour event until January at the earliest.
For Woods to qualify for the Rio Olympics, he will likely have to be in the top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking on July 11, 2016, and definitely be among the top four ranked U.S. men.
If the Olympic golf field was chosen based on today’s rankings, the last American to qualify would be Matt Kuchar, who is ranked 10th overall and fourth among Americans.
Woods is currently the 13th-highest ranked American.
Rankings points are accumulated over a rolling two-year period, where the most recent results and the strongest tournaments are weighted heaviest.
Given that, today’s rankings mean very little in the Olympic picture, because only results since the British Open in July will go into determining the Olympic qualification rankings (and the results so far will be weighted lightest come 2016).
Still, Woods is off to an extremely slow start in Olympic qualification. His only completed tournament during the Olympic qualification window so far was the British Open, where he finished 69th.
Look at Phil Mickelson for a comparison. Mickelson, ranked one spot behind Kuchar, would also not make the U.S. Olympic team if chosen based on today’s rankings.
But Mickelson finished second at the PGA Championship in August, tied for 23rd at the British Open in July and tied for 15th at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in August. He is off to a vastly better start than Woods in the Olympic qualification window.
Several years ago, Woods and Mickelson were part of golf’s “Big Four.” Interestingly enough, two members of the Big Four would make the Olympic golf field if chosen today.
That would be Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, who are ranked No. 53 and No. 241, respectively. Els is the second-highest ranked South African, and Singh is the only Fijian in the top 1,000.
The Olympic golf field of 60 can include no more than two players per nation once past the top 15 in rankings. It will likely dip into the 300s in rankings to complete the field.