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

Shoma Uno leads Ilia Malinin at figure skating worlds; Japan wins first pairs’ title


Defending champion Shoma Uno of Japan bettered American Ilia Malinin in the world figure skating championships short program.

Malinin, 18, plans one of, if not the most difficult free skate in history on Saturday in a bid to overtake Uno to become the youngest world champion in 25 years.

Uno, who has reportedly dealt with an ankle injury, skated clean Thursday save doubling the back end of a planned quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination. He totaled 104.63 points, overtaking Malinin by 4.25 on home ice in Saitama.

“I was able to do better jumps compared to my practice in my short program today, and even if I am not in my best condition, I want to focus on other details other than my jumps as well,” Uno said, according to the International Skating Union.

Malinin, who this season landed the first quadruple Axel in competition, had a clean short after struggling with the program all autumn. He landed a quadruple Lutz-triple toe combo, a quad toe and a triple Axel. Uno beat him on artistic component scores.

“I was really in the moment,” said Malinin, who plans a record-tying six quads in Saturday’s free skate after attempting five at previous competitions this season. “I was really feeling my performance out there.”

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

The quad Axel is not allowed in the short program, but expect Malinin to include it in the free, and he likely needs it to beat Uno.

Malinin has been a force in skating, starting with his breakout silver-medal finish at the January 2022 U.S. Championships. He was left off last year’s Olympic team due to his inexperience, then won the world junior title last spring.

He entered these senior worlds ranked second in the field behind Uno, yet outside the top 15 in the world in the short program this season. After a comfortable win at January’s national championships, he can become the youngest men’s world champion since Russian Alexei Yagudin in 1998.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Jason Brown placed sixth with a clean short in his first full international competition since last year’s Olympics.

The third American, Andrew Torgashev, fell on his opening quad toe loop and ended up 22nd in his worlds debut.

Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen has not skated this season, going back to Yale, and is not expected to return to competition. Silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan has been out with left leg and ankle bone injuries. Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu retired.

Earlier Thursday, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won Japan’s first pairs’ world title, dethroning Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who last year became the first Americans to win a pairs’ world title since 1979.

More on the pairs’ event here.

Worlds continue Thursday night (U.S. time) with the rhythm dance, followed Friday morning with the women’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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2023 World Figure Skating Championships results


2023 World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, Japan, top 10 and notable results …

Women (Short Program)
1. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 79.24
2. Lee Hae-In (KOR) — 73.62
3. Mai Mihara (JPN) — 73.46
4. Isabeau Levito (USA) — 73.03
5. Loena Hendrickx (BEL) — 71.94
6. Niina Petrokina (EST) — 68.00
7. Nicole Schott (GER) — 67.29
8. Bradie Tennell (USA) — 66.45
9. Ekaterina Kurakova (POL) — 65.69
10. Amber Glenn (USA) — 65.52


Men (Short Program)
1. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 104.63
2. Ilia Malinin (USA) — 100.38
3. Cha Jun-Hwan (KOR) — 99.64
4. Keegan Messing (CAN) — 98.75
5. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 95.56
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 94.17
7. Kazuki Tomono (JPN) — 92.68
8. Daniel Grassl (ITA) — 86.50
9. Lukas Britschgi (SUI) — 86.18
10. Vladimir Litvintsev (AZE) — 82.71
17. Sota Yamamoto (JPN) — 75.48
22. Andrew Torgashev (USA) — 71.41

Gold: Riku Miura/Ryuichi Kihara (JPN) — 222.16
Silver: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 217.48
Bronze: Sara Conti/Niccolo Macii (ITA) — 208.08
4. Deanna Stellato-Dudek/Maxime Deschamps (CAN) — 199.97
5. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe (USA) — 194.73
6. Lia Pereira/Trennt Michaud (CAN) — 193.00
7. Maria Pavlova/Alexei Sviatchenko (HUN) — 190.67
8. Anastasia Golubova/Hektor Giotopoulos Moore (AUS) — 189.47
9. Annika Hocke/Robert Kunkel (GER) — 184.60
10. Alisa Efimova/Ruben Blommaert (GER) — 184.46
12. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea (USA) — 175.59

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