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U.S. golfers will be in medal contention despite withdrawals

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Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson are out, but the U.S. will still have a good shot at collecting a few medals when golf makes its return to the Olympics next month.

Spieth, the world’s third-ranked golfer, was set to be the highest ranked player to compete in Rio. But on Monday, the last day to withdrawal, he pulled out citing health concerns. He’ll speak to the media Tuesday as he prepares for the British Open in Scotland.

Johnson, No. 2 in the world, became the first American to back out last week.

So now, Bubba Watson, at No. 5 in the world rankings, will be the top-ranked male golfer in Rio. His U.S. teammates will be Rickie Fowler (No. 7), Patrick Reed (No. 13) and Matt Kuchar (No. 15). A country can only send four players to the Olympics if they’re all ranked within the world’s top 15, and Kuchar barely achieved that ranking when he tied for third at the Bridgestone Invitational two weeks ago.

The only other top-10 golfers to commit to Rio are Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (No. 6) and Great Britain’s Danny Willett (No. 9). Jason Day (No. 1), Rory McIlroy (4), Adam Scott (8) and Branden Grace (10) all previously withdrew for various reasons.

That leaves all four Americans within the top 10 as far as the Olympic golf rankings are concerned, and in strong contention for a medal.

Watson will be one of five major winners to compete in Rio; he won the Masters in 2012 and 2014. Ireland’s Padraig Harrington will lead the field with three majors won (2007 British Open, 2008 British Open and PGA Championship), but he’ll be ranked 43rd in Rio. Germany’s Martin Kaymer (17th in Rio) owns two major titles (2010 PGA Championship, 2014 U.S. Open).

Willett and his compatriot, Justin Rose (No. 5 in Rio), both own one major. Willett captured the Masters title in April and Rose won the 2013 U.S. Open.

Nearly as notable are the major winners opting not to compete in Rio:

Rory McIlroy – 4 majors
Vijay Singh – 3
Jordan Spieth – 2
Jason Day – 1
Dustin Johnson – 1
Adam Scott – 1
Graeme McDowell – 1
Charl Schwartzel – 1
Louis Oosthuizen – 1

Then there’s Spain’s Sergio Garcia, probably the best golfer to never win a major. He’s been a runner-up four times in majors, but has yet to break through for a signature victory. He won the Players Championship, which is widely considered golf’s “fifth” major, in 2008, but an Olympic gold could top that. Garcia will be ranked sixth in Rio.

At the other end of the rankings, No. 60 will be Mexico’s Rodolfo Cazaubon, who is No. 344 in the world golf rankings. He was awarded a berth when Angelo Que of the Philippines withdrew Monday due to Zika virus concerns.

The women haven’t had nearly the same spate of withdrawals. Only South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace has pulled out.

The U.S. women’s team will consist of Lexi Thompson (No. 4 in the Olympic rankings), Stacy Lewis (No. 9) and Gerina Piller (No. 13). The top three will be New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, Canada’s Brooke M. Henderson and South Korea’s Inbee Park.

Piller, a former Big Break contestant, didn’t clinch her spot until Sunday. She tied for eighth at the U.S. Women’s Open, which moved her to 15th in the women’s world rankings, allowing the U.S. to send a third woman.

The 60th-ranked female golfer will be New Zealand’s Cathryn Bristow, who is No. 446 in the world.

MORE: Jason Day to skip Olympics due to Zika virus

Justin Gatlin, Noah Lyles headline U.S. roster for IAAF World Relays

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Justin Gatlin and Noah Lyles haven’t been in the same race since the 2016 Olympic Trials, but they could exchange a baton at the IAAF World Relays next month.

Gatlin, the reigning world 100m champion, and Lyles, undefeated at 200m outdoors in this Olympic cycle, headline the U.S. roster at World Relays in Yokohama, Japan, from May 11-12.

It’s the fourth edition of the meet that was held in the Bahamas in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Competition includes men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m, a mixed-gender 4x400m (making its Olympic debut in 2020), a shuttle hurdle relay and a 2x2x400m.

The U.S. has topped the medal standings at every World Relays, most memorably beating a Usain Bolt-anchored Jamaican 4x100m in 2015.

This U.S. team also includes world 100m champion Tori Bowie, U.S. 100m champion Aleia Hobbs and Lyles’ younger brother, Josephus.

The full U.S. roster:

Devon Allen
Joanna Atkina
Olivia Baker
Jessica Beard
Chris Belcher
Jasmine Blocker
Tori Bowie
Donavan Brazier
Mikiah Brisco
Ce’Aira Brown
Dezerea Bryant
Cameron Burrell
Michael Cherry
Christina Clemons (Manning)
Shania Collins
Freddie Crittenden
Paul Dedewo
Ryan Fontenot
Justin Gatlin
Queen Harrison
Aleia Hobbs
Ashley Henderson
Je’Von Hutchinson
Kyra Jefferson
Fred Kerley
My’lik Kerley
Jordan Lavender
Josephus Lyles
Noah Lyles
Remontay McClain
Sharika Nelvis
Vernon Norwood
Courtney Okolo
Jenna Prandini
Bryce Robinson
Mike Rodgers
Jaide Stepter
Nathan Strother
Gabby Thomas
Brionna Thomas
Ameer Webb
Shakima Wimbley
Dontavius Wright
Isiah Young

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How to watch 2019 London Marathon

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The London Marathon airs live on NBCSN and streams commercial free for NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” subscribers on Sunday at 4 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
4:05 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:10 – World Para Athletics Marathon Championships Ambulant Athletes
4:25 – Elite Women’s Race
5:10 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The London Marathon is known for the deepest fields of all the annual major marathons. This year is no exception.

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge will race his first 26.2-miler since shattering the world record by 78 seconds in Berlin on Sept. 16 (2:01:39).

Kipchoge, on a modern-era record win streak of nine elite marathons, won his last three London starts, including setting the course record of 2:03:05 in 2016. Another world record on Sunday is a monumental ask, given Berlin is traditionally a faster course than London.

Kipchoge’s competition includes Britain’s four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah and fellow Kenyans and past London winners Daniel Wanjiru and Wilson Kipsang.

Yet another Kenyan, Mary Keitany, also eyes a fourth London title. The 5-foot-2 soft speaker bagged either the London or New York City Marathons seven of the last eight years, with the outlier being 2013, when she gave birth to her second child.

Keitany’s greatest feat came in London in 2017, when she won in 2:17:01, erasing Paula Radcliffe‘s world record in a women’s only race by 41 seconds.

But last year, Keitany went out at world-record pace and was passed by yet another Kenyan mom, Vivian Cheruiyot, in the 23rd mile in London. Cheruiyot, a four-time Olympic track medalist, returns to defend her title Sunday.

The top two U.S. runners are Molly Huddle, in her London debut, and Emily Sisson, in her marathon debut. Both are jockeying for position among the deepest group of American female marathoners in history with the Olympic Trials looming in 10 months.

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results