Tyrrell Hatton will not take part in this year's Tokyo Olympics
Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Team GB’s hopes of retaining Olympic gold in men’s golf have suffered a setback after a late exodus of some of England’s top players.
Tyrrell Hatton (world No 11) and Matt Fitzpatrick (21) have now emulated Lee Westwood (27), who last month expressed his intention not to compete in Japan.
Assuming confirmation, this means that Tommy Fleetwood, the world No 33, will be in the 60-man field with England’s Paul Casey at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Fleetwood was still travelling home on Tuesday from last week’s US Open, but it is understood he would be keen to represent his country. If Fleetwood has a change of heart then Justin Rose would be in line to defend his Olympic title. If not, Rose will be first reserve. A spokesperson for Rose told Telegraph Sport: “He will be ready if needed.”
While Westwood’s choice was understandable – at 48 he is playing a limited schedule to ensure he is in prime condition for the Ryder Cup in September – there will inevitably be eyebrows raised at the shock decisions of Hatton and Fitzpatrick, revealed when the final qualification lists were published on Tuesday by the International Golf Federation..
At 29 and 26, they are at their peaks, but unless one or both is suffering previously unknown injuries they have have presumably taken the view of others such as world No 2 Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Sunday’s runner-up Louis Oosthuizen that the Olympics is a tournament too far in the packed calendar. The management teams of Hatton and Fitzpatrick have been asked for comment.
Explaining his 11th-hour withdrawal Garcia said: “This has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I love the Olympic Games, but my first priority (is) to represent Spain on the international stage in the Ryder Cup. My number one goal is to identify in the European team without having to wait for hopeful invitations. Representing Spain in the Olympic Games is an honor and an enormous responsibility that requires 100 per cent of your mental effort.”
He will be replaced on the team by Rafa Cabrera Bello, who tied for fifth in Rio.
The men’s competition will be held July 29-August 1 at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Japan. The women’s competition is August 4-7 at the same course, with their cut-off point coming after this week’s Women’s PGA Championship in Atlanta.
Representing the US will be Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau. Patrick Cantlay is the team’s first reserve.
“I’m going and I’m so excited,” Morikawa, the 2020 US PGA Champion said. “It’s going to be one of the best things of my life. To think back that I was an amateur two years ago, literally two years ago, and to be on this team and to be heading to Tokyo puts a smile on my face.”
Oosthuizen, who finished runner-up in the US Open, was replaced by Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Germany’s two-time major champion Martin Kaymer is another absentee and will be replaced by Hurly Long.
The world’s top 15 were eligible, with a country limited to four players. After that, players qualified based on their world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.
After declining to play in 2016, the first time the sport was included in the Games for more than a century, Rory McIlroy will represent Ireland, along with reigning Open champion, Shane Lowry.