Here’s why two top-50 golfers are skipping The Open Championship
While many of the game’s top players have spurned the Olympics, Kim, ranked No. 50 in the world, and Im, ranked 26th, are the first players to put an enhanced emphasis on the competition. And the reasoning is simple: each can avoid military conscription in their home country of South Korea if they manage to bring home an Olympic medal.
All able-bodied South Korean men are required to start a 20-month military service by their 28th birthday. However, there are exemptions for athletes who manage to medal at the Olympics. This rule was instituted in the 1970s when the country’s government was looking to boost their prestige on the national stage.
Kim and Im’s decision to skip a major championship makes more sense when considering the context of their looming military conscription. With Kim turning 26 last week, this will be his last opportunity to collect a medal and avoid military service before his 28th birthday. Im, who is just 23, will have one more opportunity at the 2024 Olympics.
Two-time PGA Tour winner Sangmoon Bae served his 20-month term in the South Korean military from 2015 to 2017.
Kim and Im will be replaced in the Open Championship field by Emilliano Grillo and Keegan Bradley.