By Andrew Both
(Reuters) – No changes are planned to the Olympic golf qualifying system, the International Golf Federation (IGF) which runs the event said after the sport shut down due to the coronavirus.
This could deal a hammer blow to the chances of Tiger Woods qualifying for Tokyo 2020, and for Park In-bee’s hopes of being eligible to defend her title from Rio 2016.
Based on the current rankings, Woods (United States) and Park (South Korea) would not qualify for their respective teams.
However, scrambling the equation is that even if the Olympics go ahead, many golfers could opt out, much as they did from Rio 2016 due to concerns over the zika virus.
Eligibility for the Tokyo 2020 men’s and women’s events will be determined by world ranking points compiled over almost two years from July 1, 2018 until June 22 (men) and June 29 (women) this year.
The list essentially mirrors the world rankings in determining the 60-player fields, with a maximum of two players from any single country (four if inside the top 15).
But the halting of the professional tour schedules for an undetermined time frame will have winners and losers, because there will be little week-to-week flux in the rankings.
Those on the outside looking in will for the most part continue looking in, and vice-versa.
“This has proven to be a fair and equitable system,” the IGF said of the qualifying system in an email to Reuters.
“The IGF is monitoring the challenges faced by our athletes to participate in events, which continues to change daily, and we currently believe that the system still remains fair to all athletes who are vying for qualification to the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games.”
In other words, bad luck if you’re outside the qualifying cut line and hoping to play your way in.
Though Park is 11th on the overall women’s world list, she is only the fifth-ranked Korean behind Ko Jin-young, Park Sung-hyun, Kim Sei-young and Lee Jeong-eun.
The LPGA Tour has canceled three tournaments in Asia, and postponed three U.S. tournaments that were scheduled over the next month.
Even if rescheduled, it is unlikely these American tournaments will be played before the Olympic cut-off.
LAST OLYMPIC CHANCE
An even bigger question from a global marketing aspect is what the PGA Tour shutdown, at least through next month’s Masters, means to Woods’s hopes.
He is sixth on the American list, behind Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed.
Dustin Johnson has ruled himself out, citing a busy schedule, though he could be joined by others wanting to keep their travel to a minimum unless the coronavirus abates quickly.
Woods, 44, has often stated his desire to play in what would likely be his only chance of being an Olympian, though he has more important matters on his mind given that he was unable to enter last week’s Players Championship due to a stiff back.
He has played only twice this year.
The 15-times major champion plays such a limited schedule at the best of times that even if, under a best-case scenario, the PGA Tour cranks back up again in mid-April, there are only a handful of events he will contest before the Olympic deadline.
The Olympic golf tournaments are scheduled to take place from July 30-Aug. 2 (men) and Aug. 6-9 (women) at the Kasumigaseki course.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond)