Phil Mickelson would be going to Olympics if cutoff was this week

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If the cutoff for golfers to qualify for the Rio Olympics were today, instead of a week ago, Phil Mickelson would be in. And he would actually go.

He and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson – who has committed to Rio, and as of now will be the highest-ranked male there – engaged in a classic duel Sunday at the British Open. Stenson collected his first career major with a three-shot victory over Mickelson, who was an incredible 11 shots better than the third-place finisher.

Watch highlights of their final round here.

Yet what a storyline it would have been if Olympic qualification was also hanging in the balance for Mickelson. The 46-year-old entered the week at 19th in the world rankings, and eighth among Americans.

But with his runner-up finish (the 11th of his career in a major), he jumped six spots to 13th in the world rankings, and fifth among Americans. A nation could send four golfers to the Olympics provided they all ranked within the world’s top 15, and though Mickelson is fifth in his country, he would have actually been third considering the withdrawals of the top two Americans, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.

And we know Mickelson wouldn’t have added his name to the long list of withdrawals because he’s been one of the biggest proponents of Olympic golf ever since the concept was formed.

Two months ago he said this: “If I can play well in the next two months and somehow get on the team, what a great opportunity to compete in the Olympics,” adding later, “The family would come down with me to Rio if I were able to make it.”

Two years ago he said this: “I don’t know why it’s so important to me but it is. I want to be a 46-year-old Olympian.”

Well, his first Olympic bid may have come up short, but he’ll try again. He has said he wants to compete in the 2020 Olympics, when he’ll be a half-century old.

Mickelson boasted to ESPN’s Rick Reilly when asked about a comment he made regarding getting better with age.

“Let me get this straight,” Reilly said. “From age 43 to age 48, you’re going to play the best golf of your life?”

“I think so,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to win a bunch of tournaments. I’m going to win at least one U.S. Open (the only major he has yet to claim), maybe two. And I’m going to make the 2016 Olympic team. And really, I’d love to make the 2020 Olympic team. I’d be 50. How cool would that be?”

He missed the 2016 team by a week, but a 50-year-old on the 2020 squad would be very cool.

MORE: IOC will evaluate absence of top male golfers after Rio

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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