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Tiger Woods, Rio gold medalists needed a boost to make 2020 Olympics. What about 2021?

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With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, OlympicTalk is taking a sport-by-sport look at where things stood before sports were halted and how global circumstances could alter the Olympic picture …

Who was in line to qualify for the Olympic men’s golf tournament before the coronavirus?
The Tokyo Olympic men’s and women’s golf fields were to be chosen from the world rankings after the men’s U.S. Open (men) and Women’s PGA Championship in June. Obviously that has all changed, but interesting storylines had developed in qualifying by mid-March.

The top men and near-locks to qualify for the 64-golfer field were Rory McIlroy (Ireland) and Jon Rahm (Spain). Americans took four of the next five spots, according to men’s golf rankings guru @VC606: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson and Xander Schauffele.

The U.S. was the only nation to have the maximum four golfers. A nation can enter four if they’re all ranked in the top 15 in the world. Once past No. 15, a nation can have a maximum of two.

What about Tiger Woods?
Woods, though he won the 2019 Masters, dropped to 10th among Americans in Olympic qualifying in early March, according to @VC606.

He played just two events in the first two months of the season (not atypical for him), then didn’t enter March staples the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship, reportedly due to his balky back.

The U.S. is so deep that current world No. 5 Dustin Johnson was not in Olympic qualifying position in early March (though Johnson said he would skip Tokyo this summer, before the coronavirus pandemic postponed the Games). Also off the bubble: Patrick ReedPatrick Cantlay and 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland.

2021 Olympic Capsules: Track and Field | Swimming | Gymnastics
Beach Volleyball | Diving
| Basketball | Tennis

Which U.S. women were in line to qualify?
There were no ranking projections for June available like for the men, but the world rankings in March had Nelly Korda (world No. 2), Danielle Kang (No. 6) and Lexi Thompson (No. 9).

Korda, 21, is the daughter of 1998 Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda and Czech Olympic tennis player Regina Rajchrtova. She ascended to No. 2 in February, matching the best ranking for a U.S. woman since Stacy Lewis‘ last week at No. 1 in 2014.

Thompson, who was as high as No. 2 in 2019, is the lone Rio Olympian of the U.S. trio in Olympic qualifying position in the March rankings. Ko Jin-Young of South Korea is No. 1, having won two majors in 2019.

Notably, neither Rio Olympic women’s or men’s gold medalist (Inbee ParkJustin Rose) was in qualifying position based on women’s rankings and men’s projections when sports were halted.

How does the Olympic postponement to 2021 change things?
Similar to tennis, it will all depend on when tournaments resume and what the cutoff date(s) will be to decide the Olympic fields.

The men’s and women’s golf rankings are frozen during the break, meaning older events whose ranking points would have fallen off in the two-year rankings window will temporarily stay on. But things could change once tournaments resume.

The longer the break, the more likely those older, 2018 tournaments will remain in the formula come 2021 if the decision-makers stick to having two full years of results make up the rankings. Older tournaments staying longer in the rankings could benefit Woods, whose top recent results were in late 2018 (PGA Championship runner-up, Tour Championship win) and early 2019 (Masters win).

MORE: Japan’s top golfer finds ties to Tokyo Olympics beyond the obvious

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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