Who can win the men’s golf gold, who can medal and who should just be happy to be at the Olympics


Seven of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking may not be competing in the men’s tournament at the Tokyo Olympics this week, but that doesn’t mean England’s Tommy Fleetwood and others aren’t having the time of their lives.

Australia’s Cameron Smith is showing his national pride in an unusual way. Of course, no one in the 59-man field has more at stake than South Korea’s Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim.

None of the three medalists from the Rio Games five years ago are playing, so three different players will be standing on the medal podium on Sunday.

Here’s a look at who’s competing, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday at the Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East Course.

Jump to a tier:
Tier I: Who can win gold | Tier II: Medal contenders | Tier III: Enjoy the Olympics

Tier I: Players who can win gold

They include PGA Tour stars and major championship winners. They’re some of the best players in the world and will contend for a gold medal.

Collin Morikawa (U.S.)
The 25-year-old has already won two majors on his first try — the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park and The Open at Royal St. George’s last month. Remarkably, he was an amateur just two years ago. His father, Blaine, is of Japanese descent.

Hideki Matsuyama (Japan)
Matsuyama, 29, became a national hero in April, when he became the first Japanese man to win a major when he won the Masters. Now, he’ll try to win a gold medal on his native soil. He still has a permanent residence in Sendai, which is about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Justin Thomas (U.S.)
The former Alabama star loves playing in Asia. His first two PGA Tour victories were at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridge in South Korea in 2017 and 2019.

Xander Schauffele (U.S.)
It’s probably a good bet that Schauffele will wind up on the medal podium. In 18 career starts in majors, he finished in the top 10 in nine of them, including two seconds and two thirds. Just no wins.

Patrick Reed (U.S.)
The man who is called “Captain America” during the Ryder Cup was a last-minute addition to the Olympic field after DeChambeau withdrew. Reed tied for 11th at the 2016 Olympic tournament in Brazil. He’s scheduled to leave for Japan on Tuesday and will play a course he’s never seen.

Rory McIlroy (Ireland)
McIlroy, who is a dual citizen of Ireland and England and lives in Florida, admitted he isn’t much of a “patriotic guy” when asked about the Olympics at The Open. He said he was going to Tokyo to represent the game of golf more than anything else. McIlroy pulled out of the 2016 Olympics because of concerns about the Zika virus.

Viktor Hovland (Norway)
While Norwegians have done far more damage at the Winter Olympics, they have won 56 gold medals at the Summer Games, with shooting and sailing combining for more than half with 30. Hovland, from Oslo, is attempting to become the first golfer from his native land to win a medal.

Paul Casey (England)
Casey will attempt to become the second straight Englishman to win the Olympics tournament. Justin Rose won gold in Rio in 2016, beating Henrik Stenson by two shots.

Abraham Ancer (Mexico)
Ancer was born in McAllen, Texas and raised in Mexico, so he has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Mexico. The former Oklahoma star said he considered the Olympics the “fifth major” when it’s played every four years.

Sungjae Im (South Korea)
Talk about motivation. If Im, 23, wins a medal in Tokyo, the South Korean government will waive his mandatory military obligation. Otherwise, he’ll have to serve two years in the military before he turns 28 just like every other man in his homeland.

Cameron Smith (Australia)
The Australian has already made an impressive cut. He celebrated his Olympics debut by shaving “AUS” into the side of his famous mullet.

Tommy Fleetwood (England)
While Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood decided to skip the Olympics, Fleetwood said Rose encouraged him to go. While Fleetwood has never won on the PGA Tour, he has won in Scotland, United Arab Emirates, France, South Africa and Kazakhstan.

Shane Lowry (Ireland)
The winner of The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019 said he wasn’t going to Tokyo “on my holidays. I’m going there to win a medal.” He would become the first Irishman to win gold since boxer Michael Carruth at Barcelona in 1992.

Marc Leishman (Australia)
The six-time PGA Tour winner was forced to skip the Rio Games because of concerns about the Zika virus. His wife was still battling the effects of sepsis at the time. He said winning a gold medal would rank above any victory in his career.

Corey Conners (Canada)
Conners and Canadian teammate Mackenzie Hughes grew up playing junior golf together and both attended Kent State. Before Rose won in Rio, Canada’s George Lyon was the last man to win an Olympic gold medal in golf at St. Louis in 1904.

Joaquin Niemann (Chile)
Niemann became the first Chilean to win on the PGA Tour with his victory at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. Chile has won two gold medals at the Summer Olympics — both in men’s tennis in Athens in 2004.

Tier II: Players who can medal

They include rising PGA Tour stars and some of the European Tour’s best players. They might contend for a silver or bronze medal.

Garrick Higgo (South Africa)
Higgo, 22, qualified for the team after the country’s top-rated player, Louis Oosthuizen, opted out (he was nearly guaranteed to win silver given how often he has been a runner-up this year at majors). Higgo won twice in three weeks on the European Tour in May and then won the Palmetto Championship at Congaree in his second PGA Tour start.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (South Africa)
He won consecutive tournaments on the European Tour at the end of last year — the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the South African Open. He has one top-10 finish in 12 tour starts this season.

Si Woo Kim (South Korea)
Like Im, Kim can avoid mandatory military service by medaling at the Olympics. This will be the 26-year-old’s last chance before he turns 28.

Carlos Ortiz (Mexico)
Ortiz, who played at North Texas and lives in Dallas, became only the third Mexican to win on the PGA Tour when he won the 2020 Houston Open.

Mackenzie Hughes (Canada)
Hughes has had a productive summer, finishing tied for 15th in the U.S. Open and tied for sixth at The Open.

Sebastian Munoz (Colombia)
Another North Texas product, Munoz has nine top-25 finishes in 29 starts on tour this season.

Guido Migliozzi (Italy)
A two-time winner on the European Tour, Migliozzi tied for fourth at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in his first career start in a major. That earned him an exemption into next year’s Masters and U.S. Open.

Rikuya Hoshino (Japan)
Hoshino, 25, is a five-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour. He tied for 26th at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the first time he made the cut at a major.

Thomas Detry (Belgium)
Detry and fellow Belgian Olympian Thomas Pieters both played at Illinois. They teamed up to win the 2018 World Cup of Golf championship for Belgium.

Alex Noren (Sweden)
Noren has big shoes to fill. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson won the silver medal in Rio, finishing two shots behind Rose.

Thomas Pieters (Belgium)
Pieters, who won the 2012 NCAA individual championship, narrowly missed making the medal stand in 2016. He finished fourth, four shots behind bronze medal winner Matt Kuchar.

Mito Pereira (Chile)
A childhood friend of Niemann’s, Pereira became only the 12th player in history to earn an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour by winning three times on the Korn Ferry Tour in one season. He tied for fifth at the Barbasol Championship in July.

Antoine Rozner (France)
A two-time winner on the European Tour, Rozner tied for 59th at The Open.

Matthias Schwab (Austria)
Schwab, who was a two-time All-American at Vanderbilt, hasn’t yet won on the European Tour.

Rasmus Hojgaard (Denmark)
Hojgaard was the third-youngest winner in European Tour history when he won the 2019 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at 18 years, 271 days old. He added a second victory the following August.

Jhonattan Vegas (Venezuela)
Vegas was the first Venezuelan golfer to compete in the Olympics in Rio in 2016. He finished tied for 50th with a 72-hole total of 289.

Henrik Norlander (Sweden)
Norlander has made 15 of 28 cuts on tour this season, including a tie for second at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.

Rory Sabbatini (Slovakia)
Sabbatini, who was born in South Africa, became a citizen of Slovakia in 2019. His wife, Martina Stofanikova, is from Slovakia.

Sepp Straka (Austria)
Straka, who played at Georgia, tied for 10th at the Travelers Championship in June, his third top-10 on tour this season.

Ryan Fox (New Zealand)
Fox, who has one victory on the European Tour, tied for 39th at Rio.

C.T. Pan (Taiwan)
Pan earned his first PGA Tour victory at the 2019 RBC Heritage. He tied for 30th at the 2016 Olympics.

Tier III: Enjoy the opening and closing ceremonies

These players aren’t expected to contend for a medal, but they’ll still get to enjoy the Olympic experience and keep the swag.

Kalle Samooja (Finland)
Sami Valimaki (Finland)

Jazz Janewattananond (Thailand)

Adri Arnaus (Spain)
The former Texas A&M star has three runners-up finishes in his first full season on the European Tour.

Joachim B. Hansen (Denmark)
Renato Paratore (Italy)
Romain Langasque (France)
Adrian Meronk (Poland)
Maximilian Kieffer (Germany)
Juvic Pagunsan (Philippines)

Ondrej Lieser (Czech Republic)
He was the first Czech golfer to win on the Challenge Tour and the first to earn a full playing card on the European Tour in 2019.

Scott Vincent (Zimbabwe)
Gunn Charoenkul (Thailand)
Hurly Long (Germany)

Jorge Campillo (Spain)

Fabrizio Zanotti (Paraguay)
Zanotti, a two-time winner on the European Tour, carried his country’s flag during the opening ceremonies, along with tennis player Veronica Cepede. Zanotti finished tied for 15th at the Rio Games.

Rafael Campos (Puerto Rico)
Gavin Kyle Green (Malaysia)
Yechun Yuan (China)
Kristian Krogh Johannessen (Norway)
Ashun Wu (China)
Anirban Lahiri (India)
Udayan Mane (India)

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