Olympic golf qualifying shifts, as do the projected fields

Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka
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When golf resumes, Tiger Woods must climb to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. As does Brooks Koepka.

The International Golf Federation announced Wednesday that the cutoff dates to choose the Olympic men’s and women’s golf fields will shift from June 2020 to June 2021. It was an expected move, given the Tokyo Games were also moved back exactly one year.

Now that the IGF decision is official, the previously projected Olympic golf fields can be ripped up. Six major tournaments are scheduled from now until the end of Olympic qualifying, which will jumble the world rankings.

A caveat: We don’t know when the world rankings will be unfrozen to restart the rolling, two-year window of results that make up the standings.

The PGA Tour is scheduled to resume in June, so that is an option. Rankings officials haven’t speculated. But men’s world rankings guru @VC606 put up a new Olympic men’s golf field projection for that very scenario.

It’s a projection that would include fewer than half of the available Olympic qualifying points, given more than one year of tournaments will still need to be played, and more weight is given to 2021 events than 2019 or 2020.

But, the projection offers a shake-up in the four Americans currently in Olympic qualifying position. The U.S. has 12 of the world’s top 18 at the moment, but no more than four golfers can qualify for the Olympics per nation per gender.

The U.S. Olympic qualifying leaders, in order, before sports were halted in March: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele.
Qualifying leaders if rankings unfreeze in June, according to @VC606: Patrick Reed, Thomas, Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau.

Why the change?

Koepka’s 2018 PGA Championship would no longer count for Olympic qualifying. His sterling results in 2019 majors, which would have counted significant Olympic qualifying points for a Tokyo Games in 2020, lost a lot of weight for an Olympics in 2021 given they will no longer be very recent in a rolling, two-year window. So Koepka, whose last top-20 PGA Tour finish was in July, drops to No. 8 in U.S. Olympic qualifying standings.

Woods, who was 10th in U.S. Olympic qualifying in early March, is now 12th. Like Koepka, his 2019 Masters title loses weight with the Olympics pushed back a year.

But the extra year should help Woods, who if sports weren’t halted likely needed to win the originally scheduled Masters, PGA or U.S. Open for a chance to get into a 2020 Olympic field. If the revised schedule holds up, he gets six chances for an Olympic qualifying boost at majors, including two at Augusta National.

Reed, a Rio Olympian, jumped from fifth among Americans in early March to first. Why? A strong start to 2020, including a win at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February. That result will not carry as much weight come June 2021, but for now, as one of the most recent top-level events, it’s very significant.

MORE: Who is @VC606?

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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