Most of the top men no longer ducking shot at Olympic gold

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Inbee Park of South Korea had not faced top competition in two months because of a thumb injury and was under pressure to give up her spot to another player for powerhouse South Korea. Park beat the No. 1 player, Lydia Ko, by five shots to win the gold. Shanshan Feng of China won the bronze. In the men’s competition, Justin Rose of England won a tight duel with British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden to win the gold medal. Matt Kuchar won the bronze.

IMPROVED FIELD: For the second straight Olympics, the men’s 60-man field featured a number of players who chose not to compete. It just doesn’t look as bad this time. Dustin Johnson at No. 2 in the world is the only player from the top 10 who withdrew. Five of the top six men are playing, along with five of the last seven major champions.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: Depending on what Japan allows for attendance, golf should get more attention than in Rio de Janeiro, where a course had to be built for the Olympics. Japan has been mad about golf for decades, and it celebrates two major champions of Japanese heritage this year with Hideki Matsuyama (Masters) and Yuka Saso (U.S. Women’s Open), whose father is Japanese.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: All eyes will be on Matsuyama, a national hero after becoming the first Japanese player to win the Masters in April. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is the most prolific major champion in the field and skipped on the Rio de Janeiro Games. For the women, there has been a surge in American talent led by Florida sisters Nelly and Jessica Korda. South Koreans still will be favored. Newcomers include major champions Patty Tavatanakit of Thailand and Yuka Saso of The Philippines.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENT(S): Aug 1: Final round of men’s competition. Aug. 7: Final round of women’s competition.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics

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