Top golfers excited about Tokyo Olympics despite Covid-19 threat

AFP/New York
Filed on May 19, 2021
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot during a practice round at the 2021 PGA Championship. (AFP)

McIlroy is set to play for Ireland despite such issues as not being able to bring his family or see other Olympic events

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and second-ranked Justin Thomas are excited about golfing in the Tokyo Olympics, even with Covid-19 safety protocols limiting them from a normal Games experience.

And even third-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm, who said the restrictions “don’t make it easy” to choose to play in Tokyo, indicated Tuesday at the PGA Championship he would play and it would be “amazing” to win a gold medal.

All three are ranked in position to qualify easily for the Olympic tournament on July 29-August 1, with Thomas in the top spot after top-ranked Dustin Johnson withdrew from consideration in March.

“I know I’d kick myself forever if I didn’t do this,” Thomas said.

World number seven McIlroy is set to play for Ireland despite such issues as not being able to bring his family or see other Olympic events.

“No, it’s certainly not going to be the authentic Olympic experience that you would normally get, but it’s the times that we’re living in,” McIlroy said.

Thomas isn’t happy about the restrictions, either, but he wouldn’t miss the Olympics.

“It’s a bummer. That’s kind of the only way I can put it,” Thomas said.

“I’m very excited about the possibility of playing for the US on the Olympic team. Am I upset and disappointed that I can’t have my family or some friends or a normal team that I would have with me there? Yeah.

“It’s just going to be one of those things down 10-15 years from now you’re going to look back at 2021 Olympics and it’s going to be a weird year.”

Rahm was surprised to learn that South Korean Im Sung-jae may face mandatory military service if he does not win an Olympic medal — or a major — and joked he would be there to help if needed.

Fourth-ranked American Xander Schauffele, with grandparents living in Tokyo, plans to play.

“It’s kind of a tricky one,” he said. “Japan has invested a lot of money, built a lot of infrastructure to accommodate the Olympics, so I understand why there’s questions about having the Olympics.

“I love being there. I love the culture. If I do get on the team it looks like I’d be playing.”

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