Why the PGA Tour’s latest winners have no plans of skipping the Olympics
The return of golf to the Olympics in 2016 saw many of the game’s top stars (at least on the men’s side) opt out of competing, and this summer’s games looks as though it might be Déjà vu. But don’t count the PGA Tour’s latest winners among the crop of talent that will abstain from competing in Tokyo.
“I’m all in,” Marc Leishman said shortly after winning the Zurich Classic.
“Me too,” added fellow Aussie Cameron Smith.
The duo took the title in New Orleans last week as they defeated the South African team of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in a playoff. Leishman and Smith fired a final-round 70 in the alternate-shot format to force extra holes and then carded par on the playoff hole to claim the title.
The win is the sixth on Tour for Leishman, and the third for Smith (and his second at the Zurich Classic).
Although there is no true team format in Olympic competition, the pair both expressed how meaningful competing for their country in the international competition would be. Their interest in playing in the Olympics is a sharp departure from the trend of top men’s players skipping the competition for various reasons.
“It would be huge,” Leishman said. “I would love to contend for any medal, to be honest. Obviously you want to go for gold. But something I never ever thought I would do would be have a chance to win an Olympic medal … I’m excited about the chance of being there and contending for that.”
Neither Leishman nor Smith competed in the 2016 Games in Rio, where Justin Rose took the gold medal.
“Any chance I can get to put on the green and gold or a team shirt I’m all in,” Smith added. “I’m a hundred percent.”
The Olympic field is restricted to 60 players with the top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking guaranteed spots so long as there are no more than four players from any given country. Beyond the top 15, the field is determined by the OWGR with a “limit of two players per country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.”
Smith is currently the highest ranked Australian in the OWGR at 25th, meaning he would make the team if it were selected today. Leishman is the third-ranked Aussie in the world at 37th, but with Adam Scott recently announcing his intentions of skipping the Games, he too would make his first Olympic team.
“I was kind of bummed I didn’t get in the team four years ago,” Smith said. “It was really a goal of mine. I’ll be thrilled if I’m there and contending on the weekend for a gold medal.”