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Tiger Woods re-enters projected Olympic golf field

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Tiger Woods‘ first Masters win since 2005 brought this ancillary benefit: he would make the 2020 Olympic golf field if chosen today.

Woods improved from seventh alternate for the U.S. two weeks ago to the No. 2 American behind Dustin Johnson in Olympic qualifying, according to golf rankings guru Nosferatu on Twitter. All thanks to his 15th major title at the biggest tournament thus far in Olympic qualifying, which runs through the 2020 U.S. Open.

Woods was in the provisional Olympic golf field after the first week of qualifying last summer but dropped out as others accumulated PGA Tour wins. Now, he’s just ahead of Xander Schauffele and Matt Kuchar, who would also make today’s Olympic golf field, according to Nosferatu.

The Official World Golf Ranking on the June 22, 2020 Olympic cutoff will look different, given the most weight is given to recent, major events. It’s paramount for Americans to perform at a top-10 level in the 2020 PGA Tour season given the nation’s depth.

Example: Brooks Koepka, who won the 2018 U.S. Open and PGA Championship, is ranked third in the world right now but not among the top four Americans in the projected June 22, 2020 rankings. Thus, he would not make the Tokyo Olympic golf field if chosen today.

It may also be paramount for Woods to play more events to boost his ranking. At age 43, after all his health issues, would the Olympics be important enough to Woods to change his schedule?

In 2015, Woods said qualifying for the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years in Rio was “very important.” September 2015 back surgery ended that Olympic bid, however.

In Rio, only three male golfers from the field of 60 were older than Woods will be come July 2020 — Thongchai JaideeAlex Cejka and Padraig Harrington. None of those men had to be ranked in the world top 15 to make their nations’ teams. That’s a necessary floor for a U.S. man.

A month before the Rio Games, Woods said he would prefer if the top 50 in the world automatically made the Olympic field.

“I just wish they would have had more quality of a field, similar to what we face in major championships, or the world golf championships, or the Players [Championship],” Woods said then. “We have these top-heavy fields, and I think the Olympics really deserve that.

“But I understand they’re trying to promote the game of golf and give more participants a chance to be part of the Olympic experience and be a part of golf. And try to get more of these countries that have not traditionally been part of golf to be a part of it, and for them to grow.”

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Where does Sergio Garcia rank among Spain’s best Olympians?

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Miguel IndurainRafael Nadal. Soccer star after soccer star after soccer star.

Sergio Garcia added to Spain’s rich (recent) sporting history with his long-awaited first major title at the Masters on Sunday.

Spain sports daily Marca ranked Garcia’s Masters win the No. 92 moment in Spanish sports history.

Nos. 1-3 were Spain winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Spanish men’s basketball team winning the 2006 FIBA World Championship and Nadal’s epic 2008 Wimbledon win over Roger Federer.

Garcia certainly makes the list of Spain’s greatest Olympians, too. He tied for eighth in Rio at the first Olympic golf tournament since 1904. (Golf’s longtime absence from the Olympics meant Garcia’s Spanish idol, five-time major winner Seve Ballesteros, never got a chance to play at the Games)

Garcia would likely have to return for Tokyo 2020 — and at the very least earn a medal — to challenge the accomplishments of those in other sports named above.

The cyclist Indurain won seven Grand Tour titles, including five Tours de France, and a 1996 Olympic time trial gold medal. Alberto Contador also owns seven Grand Tour titles, with at least two titles from all three Grand Tours, but has only finished one Olympic race — fourth in the 2008 time trial.

Nadal is at 14 Grand Slam singles titles, plus that 2008 Olympic singles gold medal.

Like Garcia, some of Spain’s soccer legends never won Olympic gold — 2010 World Cup winners Iker Casillas and Andres Iniesta among them (Casillas and Iniesta never played in the Olympics, as soccer is largely an under-23 affair at the Games). Xavi and Carles Puyol were on the 2000 Olympic silver-medal-winning team.

Pau Gasol led that 2006 World Cup-winning team revered on Marca‘s list. That roster received the good fortune of the U.S. being upset by Greece in the opposite semifinal. Still, Gasol is a three-time Olympic medalist who has been among the most loyal NBA stars to his national team.

Not to be forgotten is sprint canoeist David Cal, who owns a Spanish record five Olympic medals combined from 2004, 2008 and 2012.

One more athlete that deserves mention is a Winter Olympian. Figure skater Javier Fernandez won the 2015 and 2016 World titles and next year could win Spain’s first Winter Olympic medal since 1992.

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Masters could be pivotal for Phil Mickelson’s Olympic hopes

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Currently out of the Olympic field, Phil Mickelson can jump back into contention at the Masters, where he has a track record of strong finishes.

The Masters is the penultimate major before the Olympic men’s golf field will be determined based on world ranking.

The top four U.S. men in the Official World Golf Ranking top 15 on July 11 (the Monday before the British Open) qualify for the first U.S. Olympic golf team in 112 years.

World No. 2 Jordan Spieth, No. 4 Bubba Watson and No. 5 Rickie Fowler are in driver seats for three of the four spots, as they have been since Fowler won the May 2015 Players Championship.

The next-highest ranked American is Dustin Johnson at No. 8, followed by Patrick Reed at No. 10.

Upward movers since Jan. 1 have been veterans Brandt Snedeker (rising from No. 49 to No. 17) and Mickelson (from No. 34 to No. 18).

Since the two-year, rolling world ranking weighs the most recent results the heaviest, Snedeker and Mickelson may have a leg up on No. 16 Zach Johnson and No. 19 Brooks Koepka, who have each dropped three spots since Jan. 1.

Mickelson will certainly be scrutinized this week. He’s a three-time Masters champion, finishing in the top 10 a staggering 15 times in the last 21 years at Augusta National.

Mickelson, 45, is in the midst of by far the longest winless stretch of his career.

He last prevailed at the 2013 British Open but tied for second at the 2015 Masters and has three PGA Tour top-fives this year, one shy of his total for 2014 and 2015 combined.

However, Mickelson duffed a crucial shot at making up ground on Johnson and Reed at the World Match Play Championships two weeks ago.

He lost to Reed 5&4 with a spot in the round of 16 at stake. Reed advanced to play Johnson, with Johnson reaching the quarterfinals to consolidate his place as the No. 4 U.S. man behind Spieth, Watson and Fowler.

Outside of the U.S., the best Olympic teams are looking like Australia and Great Britain.

The Australian team appears set with No. 1 Jason Day and No. 7 Adam Scott, though Scott has been critical of Olympic golf. It wouldn’t be shocking for Scott to turn down an Olympic place, which would open the door for No. 31 Marc Leishman.

While the U.S. can send four men to the Olympics in the top 15, once outside the top 15 a nation’s total number of Olympic golfers is capped at two men. Hence Leishman having little chance if Day and Scott accept berths, unless he cracks the top 15.

Great Britain also has two men in the top 15 — No. 9 Justin Rose and No. 12 Danny Willett — and nobody else until No. 25 Paul Casey.

One man in the Masters field who doesn’t need to worry is 53-year-old Vijay Singh, who is ranked No. 215 but is virtually (if not mathematically) assured a place in the Olympics. Singh is from Fiji, and Fiji has no other golfers ranked in the top 1,000.

Singh would make the Olympics as the 49th out of 60 qualified golfers based on this week’s rankings. The last qualifier based on this week’s rankings is Mardan Mamat of Singapore, who at No. 360 is 145 places below Singh in the world ranking.

Of golf’s Big Four of Singh, Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els from the early 2000s, Singh, the oldest by seven years, will likely be the lone representative at the Rio Games.

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