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The inaugural Zozo Championship marked Tiger Woods’ first career PGA Tour victory in Japan. While he plans to return next fall to defend his title, there’s now an increased chance he could make another trip to Japan in 2020.
Woods’ record-tying 82nd career win also vaulted him back into the mix for the U.S. Olympic team, with only the top four American men qualifying for next year’s event in Tokyo. While countries are capped at two players per nation, there is a provision to allow up to four players from the same country to play if all are ranked inside the top 15 in the world.
Woods’ victory moved him to No. 6 in the latest world rankings, and he’s currently the fourth-highest American behind Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. But the Official World Golf Rankings utilize a two-year rolling points system that currently dates back to October 2017, while points for the official Olympic rankings only began accruing in July 2018.
While the two rankings systems will grow more closely aligned as the Olympics approach, right now Woods would be fifth and on the outside looking in based solely on points accrued since last July. Koepka and Thomas would be the top two Americans, with Patrick Cantlay (currently one spot behind Woods in the world) as the third U.S. player and Johnson rounding out the quartet for Tokyo. The cutoff for earning points toward Olympic qualification will be June 22, 2020.
Asked by reporters after his Zozo victory, Woods made it clear that earning a spot on the U.S. team will remain a top priority heading into the new year.
“I hope to qualify for the team and represent my country,” Woods said. “I know some of my friends have made Olympic teams before in the past, and they said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I have never played for a gold medal before and certainly it would be an honor to do it. And especially at the age I’ll be, I’ll be 44, and I don’t know if I have many more chances after that.”
Other Americans who are currently in the mix for a potential Olympic berth include Gary Woodland, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Patrick Reed. The U.S. representatives for the 2016 Olympics in Rio were bronze medalist Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed, with Johnson and Jordan Spieth both qualifying and opting not to participate.