As U.S. Open starts, Olympic men’s golf picture far from settled

Dustin Johnson
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Dustin Johnson is grouped with Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau for the first two rounds of this week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot. It’s possible none of them will play in the Tokyo Olympics.

Such is the qualifying scenario for one of the hardest teams to make in all Olympic sports — the U.S. men’s golf roster.

The top four Americans in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) after the 2021 U.S. Open will qualify outright for the Tokyo Games (assuming they are top 15 in the world, which at this point looks certain).

Since the OWGR is made up of a golfer’s results from the last two years, many tournaments with Olympic qualifying points at stake have already been played. This week’s U.S. Open, as a major, carries a significant amount of points (though next year’s U.S. Open will have the most points, as the ranking places greater weight on recent tournaments).

U.S. OPEN: NBC TV Schedule | GolfChannel.com Coverage

Johnson, coming off his FedEx Cup title, is ranked No. 1 in the world and No. 1 in Olympic qualifying.

But back in March, he ruled out playing in the Tokyo Olympics had they been held as originally planned in 2020. Johnson prioritized the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which were to start two weeks after the Olympic tournament on the other side of the world.

Much has changed in the last six months. The Olympics, now postponed to 2021. The PGA Tour schedule added an extra week between the Olympic tournament and the Playoffs next year (though the inserted tournament is a World Golf Championships event). And Johnson is now a FedEx Cup champion, crossing off a career goal.

Johnson’s manager said Tuesday that his golfer’s Olympic plans have not been discussed lately.

“We will likely sit down and look at the schedule later this year and formulate a plan for 2021,” David Winkle said in an email.

Golf Channel rankings guru Alan Robison has Johnson followed by Justin ThomasCollin Morikawa and Webb Simpson in the current U.S. Olympic qualifying standings. If Johnson passes on an Olympic spot, Xander Schauffele is next in line.

As of now, the following players would not qualify for the Olympics outright despite being ranked Nos. 7-11 in the world: Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay.

Last year at this time, Koepka led Olympic qualifying. He appeared a shoo-in for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

But with the Olympics pushed back a year, his points from winning the 2019 PGA Championship and placing fourth or better in last year’s other three majors were downgraded significantly with OWGR recency weighting. He has just one top-five PGA Tour finish in the last 12 months, while other Americans surged.

Likewise, Woods put himself in 2020 Olympic contention by winning the 2019 Masters and last October’s Zozo Championship in Japan.

But Woods, who continues to play a limited schedule (which the OWGR formula discourages), has finished higher than 37th in one tournament in 2020 (a tie for ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open in January).

He slid outside the top 20 in the OWGR and well outside the top 10 in U.S. Olympic qualifying. For Woods and just about any American, a victory at Winged Foot would put them in Olympic contention.

Koepka will miss the U.S. Open after battling knee and hip injuries. Fortunately for him and Woods, the biggest tournaments in Olympic qualifying are still to come, including a pair of Masters.

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