Golf absences open door for South Africans, Australians for Rio Games

Fri May 6, 2016 1:22pm EDT
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By Andrew Both

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - The decision by four top South African and Australian players to opt out of Olympic golf has left lower-ranked men from both countries scrambling to qualify for Rio after having been resigned to missing out.

Former world number one Ernie Els is among those still keen to get on board the South African team, but knows he must put some good results on the board soon.

“I would love to do that,” four-times major champion Els told Reuters at this week's Wells Fargo Championship when asked about the Olympic experience.

The qualification rules are complicated, but it seems South Africa and Australia will both have two-man teams, comprised of the highest-ranked available players on the July 11 cut-off date, a month before the Rio Olympics competition.

On the South African side, Louis Oosthuizen (world ranking of 13th) and Charl Schwartzel (ranked 21st) have withdrawn from consideration for personal reasons.

Branden Grace, ranked 11th, appears a lock for one spot but the second position is very much up for grabs.

Jaco Van Zyl (ranked 60th) currently occupies the second spot, while Els is all the way down at 216th after recent struggles that included a well-publicised six-putt at the first hole of the Masters last month.

But Els knows his ranking would skyrocket with a couple of strong finishes, perhaps even a tournament victory.   Continued...

Apr 8, 2016; Augusta, GA, USA; Ernie Els plays a shot from the 2nd fairway during the second round of the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports