Golf: Few stars left to shine in men's field

Fri Jul 29, 2016 12:46am EDT
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By Liana B. Baker

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Sweden's Henrik Stenson and the United States' Bubba Watson will be vying for a gold medal in golf's return to the Olympics after 112 years, an event with less buzz than many in the sport had hoped for due to some high-profile no-shows.

Watson and Stenson, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the Olympics field of 60 players, will be missing some familiar foes, since the top four men in the world -- Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy -- have controversially decided not to play in the competition, which takes place between Aug. 11 and 14.

Olympic qualifying regulations have allowed the U.S. to send four players, more than any other country. Twice major winner Watson, the world number six, may be the one to beat in Rio.

Another American Rickie Fowler, one of the highest-ranked golfers never to have won a major, will also be in the medal hunt.

Nobody will have an advantage of knowing the newly-built Reserva de Marapendi course and it remains to be seen whether it will favor power or precision.

Stenson, ranked second in the Olympics and fifth in the world, is on the hottest streak, having set scoring records at Royal Troon at the British Open in July.

All three are featuring in the current PGA Championship in New Jersey, the final golf major before the Games.

Britain's Olympic team is also strong, featuring this year's Masters winner, Danny Willett, and world No. 11 Justin Rose.   Continued...

Bubba Watson at the 2015 U.S. Openat Chambers Bay. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports