Tiger Woods wants to play golf at the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. The Olympics would obviously love to have Tiger Woods in Tokyo this summer. However, there’s no guarantee the 15-time major champion will be teeing it up in Japan in late July.
The results of this past weekend’s World Golf Championships event, the WGC-Mexico Championship, may just have played a major role on whether or not the game’s most popular player will represent his country for the first time in Olympic play.
How are golfers chosen for the Olympics?
The 2020 Olympics will mark just the second time since 1904 that golf has been featured. The sport returned to the Games in 2016 in Rio, with Englishman and former world No. 1 Justin Rose taking home the gold medal. 60 players are selected from countries around the world to participate in the 72-hole stroke play event.
The top 15 players in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) will automatically qualify for the Olympics. However, the limit of golfers per country allowed to qualify this way is four. That means if the United States had five golfers in the top 15 in the world on the cutoff date of June 22 (the day after the U.S. Open ends), only four would get to go to Tokyo. The U.S. actually has 10 players in the top 15 right now, meaning it’s going to be very competitive down the stretch.
The remaining spots are filled by the highest-ranked players from countries that don’t already have two people qualified, with a limit of two golfers per nation. One spot is guaranteed for the host nation if nobody has qualified from that country (Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama will easily fill that role).
The finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship really hurt Tiger Woods
World Golf Championships carry major points as it pertains to the OWGR, which is the main metric for qualifying for the Olympics. After a last-place finish at The Genesis Invitational, Tiger Woods chose not to tee it up in Mexico this past weekend. Patrick Reed won the WGC-Mexico and Bryson DeChambeau finished in solo second, meaning both Americans bolstered their respective overall averages in the OWGR.
Earlier in February, Tiger was the fourth-highest ranked American in the Olympic standings. After this past weekend, he now sits in seventh, even though he still sits at No. 10 in the world. With only four spots open for the Americans if they can maintain four spots in the top 15 of the OWGR (which they most certainly will), Woods is now on the outside looking in. He currently sits behind Brooks Koepka (No. 3), Justin Thomas (No. 4), Dustin Johnson (No. 5), Patrick Cantlay (No. 7), Patrick Reed (No. 8), and Webb Simpson (No. 9).
How Tiger can get back in the mix
The formula for Tiger Woods getting back into the Olympic mix is quite simple. He really needs to win a golf tournament. While that used to be a lot easier for the 82-time PGA Tour winner, there’s no guarantee of that anymore. What makes it even more difficult for Tiger is the light schedule he prefers.
However, the tournaments in which we’re nearly guaranteed to see Tiger play are tournaments where he’s had big-time success. His likely next outing will be at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in early March, where he’s won eight times. The following week, the PGA Tour heads to TPC Sawgrass for The Players Championship; he’s won twice there. It will be interesting to see if he tees it up at the WGC-Match Play, another event that holds a lot of OWGR points.
Then, of course, there’s The Masters in early April. Tiger is the defending champion and a five-time winner at Augusta. Ahead of the June 22 cutoff, there’s also the PGA Championship, the Memorial, and the U.S. Open. Woods has had a lot of success at these tournaments as well. However, the players currently sitting above Tiger on the Olympic qualifying list will be at those big tourneys as well.
Only time will tell if Tiger Woods has enough in him to get to Tokyo.