Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka
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Olympic golf qualifying shifts, as do the projected fields

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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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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.

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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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Biles, Felix, Rapinoe and Shiffrin nominated for World Sportswoman of the Year

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Gymnast Simone Biles, sprinter Allyson Felix and Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, each staking a claim as the best ever in their sports, have been nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award. The winner will be announced Feb. 17 in Berlin.

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe is also nominated, giving the U.S. four of the six nominees for the award. The other nominees are Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Naomi Osaka.

The U.S. women’s soccer team is also nominated for World Team of the Year, alongside two other World Cup champions — South Africa (men’s rugby) and Spain (men’s basketball). The NBA champion Toronto Raptors are also nominated, along with European and world champion Liverpool FC and perennial Formula 1 champion Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Tiger Woods, who won The Masters after several years with no major championships, is nominated for Sportsman of the Year. Argentine soccer great Lionel Messi (Barcelona FC) is also nominated, along with tennis player Rafael Nadal, two-hour marathon barrier breaker Eliud Kipchoge, and motorsports stars Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1) and Marc Márquez (MotoGP).

Two tennis players, Coco Gauff and Bianca Andreescu, are nominated for Breakthrough of the Year, along with U.S. swimmer Regan Smith, Colombian Tour de France champion Egan Bernal, Japan’s men’s rugby team and boxer Andy Ruiz Jr.

U.S. swimmer Nathan Adrian, who won his 15th and 16th world championships after a bout with testicular cancer, is nominated for World Comeback of the Year, along with Liverpool FC, tennis player Andy Murray, NBA champion Kawhi Leonard, German Formula 3 driver Sophia Flörsch and Australian rugby star Christian Lealiifano.

Skier/cyclist Oksana Masters is nominated for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, along with Dutch wheelchair tennis player Diede de Groot, Cuban sprinter Omara Durand, Dutch cyclist/triathlete Jetze Plat, Swiss track and field star Manuela Schär and British swimmer Alice Tai.

U.S. athletes Nyjah Huston (skateboard), Chloe Kim (snowboarding) and Carissa Moore (surfing) are up for Action Sportsperson of the Year, along with 11-year-old Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal, Brazilian surfer Italo Ferreira and Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris.

Biles has already won this award twice, in 2017 and 2019. She’s nominated this time after taking five of a possible six gold medals in the world championships, running her career totals to 19 golds and 25 medals.

WORLDS: Biles breaks career record

Felix broke Usain Bolt’s record for world championship gold medals, winning two relays for her first two gold medals as a mom.

2020: Felix has everything on the table

Rapinoe won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot as the U.S. women won their second straight World Cup, and she was consistently in the spotlight for her outspoken views on LGBTQ rights and equal pay.

AWARD: Rapinoe takes Ballon d’Or

Shiffrin also had a record-setting year, winning 17 World Cup races to take her third straight overall title along with the season titles in slalom, giant slalom and super-G.

RECORD: Shiffrin wraps up fourth globe of 2019

Woods won The Masters, his first major victory in more than a decade. He won the Sportsman of the Year award in 2000 and 2001, along with the Comeback of the Year award last year.

2020: Woods contending for Olympic berth

Gauff became the youngest winner of a WTA Tour event since 2004, taking the Linz Open title at age 15, and defeated Venus Williams on her way to the fourth round at Wimbledon. Smith set a 200m backstroke world record in the world championship semifinals and went on to win the title, along with a medley relay gold, at age 17.

In his first world championship since undergoing surgery for testicular cancer, Adrian took gold in two relays, including a thrilling anchor leg in the 4x100m freestyle.

Masters won five gold medals in the cross-country skiing world championships and two silver medals in the cycling worlds. She won the U.S. Paralympic Athlete of the Year award in November.

Huston three-peated as world champion in the street skateboarding event. Kim swept the world championship and X Games halfpipe events before beginning her studies at Princeton. Moore won her fourth world title.

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