Five years ago, Inbee Park was not sure she would even be healthy enough to compete at the Rio Olympics. 

The LPGA star had battled a thumb injury throughout the year and would end up skipping three of the tour's five majors, but she made representing South Korea a top priority and it paid off. 

Park nearly went wire-to-wire to win gold, sitting a stroke back of the lead after one round and moving ahead to stay the following day before winning by five strokes over New Zealand's Lydia Ko. 

Looking back on that experience heading into the Tokyo Games, Park said on Monday she feels much more relaxed. 

"[In] 2016 I felt the most pressure in my life. I don’t think I could do that once again," Park said. 

"It’s definitely much better and much more relaxing this year because my conditions are not as bad as in 2016, where I had to deal with injuries and a lot of pressure."

She knew how many people were counting on her then as golf returned to the Olympic programme for the first time in more than a century, and the opportunity inspired her to push through the pain. 

“I was representing the country and going through the injury," she said. "It wasn’t like a normal tournament where if you don’t feel well, you just pull out and play well in the next event.

"I really wanted to play well and didn’t want to withdraw from the tournament because of the injury. I was just trying really hard to fight the injury.

“With the injury, a lot of people got worried. My family, staff, and probably the whole of Korea was worried that I was not in the best condition.

"That was kind of the pressure I was dealing with. To overcome that was really hard.

“I think that kind of pressure gave me the power to overcome a lot of the stuff, and being able to win gold was amazing.”

Park's quest to repeat begins on Wednesday at 8:41 am local time, when she will open Olympic play in a grouping with Ko and 2016 bronze medallist Feng Shanshan of China. 

She said she watched last week's men's tournament on television to try and get a feel for the course, then got in some practice Sunday and founded it firmer and longer than she had expected. 

However it plays later this week, she expects a difficult test but feels she is in a good position to handle it this time around. 

“I’m very excited to be here representing the country twice in a row," she said.

"It’s the biggest honour for me. [To be] here in Tokyo five years after Rio, it’s truly a dream come true for me."

Daniel Gavins was left speechless after claiming his maiden European Tour title at the World Invitational.

The 30-year-old from Leeds was seven shots behind leader Jordan Smith heading into the final day at Galgorm Castle Golf Club in Ballymena.

But as Smith faltered – going four over for the day – Gavins carded a bogey-free 65 to get to 13 under for the tournament.

Gavins, who had never previously achieved a top-10 finish, holed two putts of over 50 feet on the back nine as he matched his second-round score – he had also signed for a 66 on Saturday - to storm into contention.

David Horsey appeared set to deny him victory, however, only to falter after the turn. He had two bogeys and a double bogey to card a 72, leaving him one adrift on 12 under. 

Gavins' triumph was all the more remarkable considering he had contemplated missing the event to rest ahead of a busy schedule on the Challenge Tour.

"I can't believe it; I was seven behind going into the last round. I'm speechless," he told Sky Sports Golf.

"I was a little nervous before. I just tried to shoot as low as I could today. At seven behind, I didn't really think I was within a chance of winning.

"I've been playing well. I was going to have the week off because I knew there were a lot of Challenge Tour events coming up.

"I just can't believe it, I don’t think it's sunk in. It'll take a while to sink in, but what an amazing day."

Having led overnight at 15 under, Smith was forced to settle for a share of third place, finishing up alongside Alejandro Canizares, Masahiro Kawamura and Daniel Hillier.

The men's 100 metres event took centre stage in Sunday's Tokyo Olympics action as Marcell Jacobs won gold at the Olympic Stadium.

Jacobs, the first Italian to even reach the final, broke the European record with a time of 9.80 seconds to finish ahead of Fred Kerley and Andre De Grasse.

That triumph came shortly after an incredible conclusion to the men's high jump that saw Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim share the gold medal.

There was nothing to separate the pair after two hours of competition and, with both men tied on 2.37m, they agreed to share first place rather than have a jump-off.

Italy winning two athletics gold medals at the same Olympics for the first time since Athens 2004 was the story of the day, but there were plenty more talking points on Sunday.

 

PAN GETS BRONZE AFTER EPIC PLAY-OFF

Xander Schauffele landed Olympic gold for the United States on the golf course on a nail-biting final round of action that saw Rory Sabbatini take silver with an Olympic record 10-under round of 61.

That was just half the story, though. Seven players finished in a tie for third, setting up a thrilling play-off that culminated in Chinese Taipei's CT Pan pipping Open champion Collin Morikawa to an unlikely bronze.

It marks quite the turnaround for Pan, who was way down in 39th after a first-round three-over 74. Indeed, even the world number 208 himself was shocked to hold his own among the world's elite golfers.

"That was very satisfying," Pan said. "It came as a surprise to me. After day one, I remember I texted one of my good friends and I was like, 'the struggle is real'. I couldn't even think about winning a medal. 

"I didn't even think about it after Thursday's round. Overall, that was a very happy ending."

Rory McIlroy was one of the players to miss out on bronze in the play-off, though even the Irishman has been won over by the success of this week's event in Tokyo – just the fourth time golf has been staged at a Games.

"I've never tried so hard in my life to finish third," he said. "It's been a great experience. Today was a great day, to be up there in contention for a medal.

"I've made some comments on the Olympics before that were probably uneducated and impulsive. I'm excited about how this week turned out and I'm excited for the future.

"It's been a throwback to the good old days when we didn't play for money. It was great, a really enjoyable week."

NO BETTER FEELING FOR ZVEREV

Zverev won the ATP Finals in 2018 and reached last year's US Open title match, but nothing compares to winning Olympic gold for his country in the view of the German.

Having defeated favourite Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, Zverev carried his momentum into Sunday's final with Russian Olympic Committee's Karen Khachanov to land the biggest title of his career.

The 24-year-old took just 79 minutes to record a comfortable 6-3 6-1 victory at Ariake Tennis Park as he became Germany's first men's singles champion at the Olympics. 

"There is nothing better than this," he said. "You are not only playing for yourself, you are playing for your country. The Olympics are the biggest sporting event in the world.

"The feeling I have now, and will have, nothing will be better."

 

MCKEON AND DRESSEL REIGN SUPREME ON FINAL DAY OF SWIMMING

Australia's Emma McKeon marked the final day of swimming at Tokyo 2020 by making history with her victories in the women's 50m freestyle and women's 4x100m medley relay at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

She has four golds in Tokyo and seven podium finishes in total, making her just the second woman to win that number of medals in one Olympic Games after Maria Gorokhovskaya in artistic gymnastics at Helsinki 1952.

"I never thought I'd win two gold medals in one session. I'm very happy," she said. "It is very surreal.

"I feel like it has been a bit of a roller coaster getting a gold medal and trying to keep the emotions at bay. It will take a while to sink in because I've been focusing on myself to keep my cool. 

"I'm very proud of myself. I wouldn't be able to do it without all the support around me."

Caeleb Dressel rounded off his own Olympics in style, too, by finishing top of the podium in the men's 50m freestyle with an Olympic record of 21.07s, before adding a fifth gold in the men's 4x100m medley.

The 24-year-old swam the fastest butterfly split in history in the second of those events (49.03s) to help the United States to a world record time of 3:26.78, enough to hold off a Great Britain quartet that included Adam Peaty and Duncan Scott.

Dressel, who now has three of the six quickest times in history to his name, said: "I'm proud of myself. I think I reached what my potential was here at these Games.

"It was just really fun racing. I'll give myself a pat on the back and then I'll just put it away and move forward. I'm going to take a break here – I'm pretty over swimming!"

WHITLOCK DOUBLES UP, HISTORIC GOLD FOR BELGIUM

A lot has changed for Max Whitlock in the five years since winning gold in the men's pommel horse in Rio – not least becoming a father – but the outcome was exactly the same in Tokyo.

The Team GB gymnast went first and delivered a superb routine that earned him a score of 15.583. After a nervous wait, Whitlock was confirmed as back-to-back gold medallist in the discipline – just the second male to achieve that – and a three-time gold medallist overall. 

Throw in the two World Championship titles he has won and the 28-year-old can now be considered the most successful gymnast of all time in the event.

"I feel absolutely lost for words, I can't even describe the feeling and I feel completely overwhelmed – it feels surreal," Whitlock told BBC Sport.

Elsewhere at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre on Sunday, Artem Dolgopyat won gold for Israel in the men's floor exercise and Rebeca Andrade became the second Brazilian athlete to win Olympic gold in artistic gymnastics by coming out on top in the women's vault.

History was made in the women's uneven bars, an event made unpredictable by the withdrawal of Simone Biles, as Nina Derwael held off Anastasiia Iliankova and Sunisa Lee to claim Belgium's first Olympic gold medal in artistic gymnastics.

Derwael, the fifth Belgian female to win Olympic gold in an individual event at the Games, said: "It's a fantastic feeling. I still can't believe it. It's been a long road to get here, it's been a long week. 

"Standing on the podium was such a magical moment. I really felt like I was dreaming, and I still had to wake up. I felt like the day still had to start. It's just unbelievable."

Xander Schauffele landed Olympic gold on the golf course for the United States after a dramatic final round saw Rory Sabbatini's 61 almost snatch top spot on the podium.

A terrific third shot at the 18th left Schauffele with a short putt for victory, after he found deep rough off the tee and could not go for the green in regulation.

He held his nerve to protect his one-shot advantage, finishing on 18 under par as Sabbatini took a spirited silver for Slovakia.

The battle for the bronze at Kasumigaseki Country Club went down to a seven-man play-off, with Chinese Taipei's world number 208 CT Pan landing the third-place medal and Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy among those left disappointed.

By the time they reached the fourth extra hole it was down to a two-man battle between Open champion Morikawa and Pan, who had both posted closing 63s. Morikawa found sand with his second shot, the ball becoming plugged, and although he just about got it on the green, the putt he left went astray, leaving Pan to roll in an eight-footer for the medal.

Schauffele and Matsuyama were in Sunday's final group to start, just as they were at The Masters in April when Japan's newest golf star became his country's first men's major champion.

This time it was Schauffele's time to triumph, with the 27-year-old Las Vegas resident, who was born in San Diego, just about doing enough as a four-under 67 sealed the title.

And he could relax at last, the tension of the past hour all forgotten.


THIS ONE'S FOR DAD

Schauffele, whose mother was raised in Japan, was asked if it was his biggest career win and replied: "I'd like to say so, yeah."

His father, Stefan, has been with him in a coaching capacity this week, and Schauffele said: "I really wanted to win for my dad. I am sure he is crying somewhere right now. I kind of wanted this one more than any other.

"You are trying to represent your country to the best of your ability and then you add family stuff on top of that and I'm probably going to have a nice call with my grandparents tonight. I am sure they are back home, everyone is back home watching. I was feeling the love from San Diego and Las Vegas this whole time.

"I'm a little speechless right now, quite honestly."

 

Schauffele almost lost his ball when he drove into trees on the right side of the fairway on the par-five 14th, hitting a provisional ball in case there was no sign of the first.

That ball was soon located though, with Schauffele taking a penalty to bring it into a just-about playable position.

Matsuyama found the green in two but Schauffele was still short after four and was grateful to make six. Matsuyama went close with his eagle putt but had to settle for birdie, moving one shot behind Schauffele who slipped back to join Sabbatini on 17 under.

"It got a little dicey there," Schauffele later said. "When you are trying to win you need some things to go your way. I took a pretty big risk trying a hack-it-through-a-bush type shot and it missed my gap. I literally did the Matrix through these trees and it could have easily hit a tree and gone out. So, today was definitely my day."


HANGING TOUGH, DESPITE THE ROUGH

It was a hectic leaderboard all day long. Sabbatini had come from way back in the field thanks to his 10-under round and was waiting in the clubhouse to see what reward that would bring him.

Home favourite Matsuyama bogeyed the next to fall two back but gave himself a chance of birdie at the short next hole with a tee shot to around 10 feet, only to miss by a whisker.

Ireland's McIlroy was then two inches away from a birdie at the last that would have taken him to 16 under and secured bronze, yet he went into the play-off instead, as did Matsuyama.

Schauffele made birdie at 17 to edge in front on his own, and after the wretched tee shot at the last threatened to undo his gold medal mission, the American saved his best for last.

The third shot was almost right at the pin, finishing four feet away. Schauffele made no mistake, succeeding Justin Rose as Olympic champion, with the sport having returned to the Games programme in 2016 for the first time in 112 years.

The play-off also featured Chile's Mito Pereira, Great Britain's Paul Casey and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, with Pan the unlikely figure to emerge with the bronze.

Rory McIlroy conceded he needs to "give things a chance" after having his opinion of the Olympic Games altered in Tokyo.

McIlroy was somewhat indifferent to the Games ahead of golf's reintroduction in 2016, though he ultimately did not compete in Rio.

Before his appearance in Tokyo, McIlroy – who is representing Team Ireland along with Shane Lowry – claimed that he is "not very patriotic" but attended the event as he felt it was the correct thing to do.

However, the four-time major champion finds himself firmly in the mix for a medal at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The 32-year-old carded 67 on Saturday, putting him three shots behind leader Xander Schauffele on 11 under, and he is tied for fifth alongside Sebastian Munoz, Mito Pereira and Sepp Straka.

"I've been thinking about that, I need to give things a chance," McIlroy replied when asked if his opinion of the Olympics had changed.

"I was speaking to my wife last night and I was like 'maybe I shouldn't be so sceptical'.

"I think I need to do a better job of giving things a chance, experiencing things, not writing them off at first glance. That's sort of a trait of mine.

"But look, I'm happy to be proved wrong. I was proven wrong at the Ryder Cup, I've been proven wrong this week.

"It feels different, but I wouldn't know how to describe it. As it gets closer and you get closer to that finishing line, you start thinking about it a little bit more.

"Last week, an Olympic medal and I was like, 'I don't really know what that would mean to me'. But now you've got a chance to do it, it's like, 'Jeez that would be pretty cool'." 

McIlroy's team-mate Lowry is on 10 under, and McIlroy knows there is now extra pressure on the pair to deliver for Ireland.

"I think everyone kind of earmarked us for medals and it's nice going into the final round that we both have that to play for," he said.

"Two [medals] is better than one and one is better than none."

While McIlroy and Lowry are firmly in the running, Team USA's Schauffele is set to rekindle his Masters battle with home favourite Hideki Matsuyama.

The duo played together in the final two rounds at Augusta, with Japan's superstar Matsuyama triumphing, and they will go again in the final round on Sunday as they occupy the leading two spots.

Rory McIlroy is providing an extra source of inspiration for Yuka Saso, who is among the favourites to strike gold in the women's golf in Tokyo.

Saso comes into the Olympics having won the U.S. Women's Open in June; her first major championship success.

The 20-year-old from the Philippines idolises McIlroy and is spending her free time ahead of the women's event trailing the Northern Irishman around the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

She has been treated to a fine display from McIlroy, who has refound form to head into the final round just three shy of leader Xander Schauffele and well in contention for a medal.

"Watching him rip it is really good," SASO told the Olympic Information Service.

"Watching him today and seeing him swing gives me advice for my swing. I'll be watching him every day."

McIlroy greeted Saso during his round on Friday, and the youngster added: "That's pretty cool, who would think he would do that for me? It's been a dream watching him live."

A third-round 67 has put McIlroy in a tie for fifth on 11 under, with Schauffele holding a one-shot lead over home favourite Hideki Matsuyama – Paul Casey and Carlos Ortiz sit on 12 under.

"It was good, a continuation of how I played yesterday," McIlroy said after his efforts on Saturday.

"Felt like I maybe left a couple out there out on the back nine, I could have maybe got to 13 under, but I've got a great chance going into tomorrow. It's a bit of a packed leaderboard, all to play for.

"It's going to be brilliant, a lot of us are trying to do something that none of us have ever done before, a lot of us going to be going through experiences that we've never experienced so that's going to be fun, it's interesting and sets us up for a really good day tomorrow."

With the men's individual event wrapping up on Sunday, the women take to the course on Wednesday.

Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele battled it out for Masters glory and now they will go head to head in a scramble for Olympic gold on Sunday.

Japanese superstar Matsuyama trails American Schauffele by one shot going into the final round at Kasumigaseki Country Club, and they will join Paul Casey in the final group out.

A home triumph for Matsuyama at the Tokyo Games would be an extremely popular result in Japan, but the top 10 are separated by only four strokes, so medals remain firmly in the sights of a host of players.


AS AUGUST ARRIVES, AN AUGUSTA REPEAT

Almost four months have gone by since Matsuyama became the first Japanese man to win a major, when he edged home at Augusta National on a tense final day.

He partnered Schauffele for the final two rounds at the Georgia course, and the same thing has played out this week, with the August 1 finale to the golf event sure to make for absorbing sporting theatre.

The big-name front-runners also had Mexican Carlos Ortiz for company on Saturday, but it was Schauffele who stayed at the head of the pack after following Friday's 63 with a hard-fought 68 to reach 14 under, with Matsuyama on 13 under after a 67, having completed a second-round of 64 earlier in the day.

Schauffele "hung tough", the American said, relying on solid putting to dig him out of trouble as he struggled with his long game.

It was Matsuyama who led going into the final round at The Masters in April, when he held a four-shot cushion but ended up winning by only one after a 73. Schauffele's hopes disappeared when he found water and made six at the par-three 16th that day.

Despite the gold medal being a tantalising target, Schauffele said Saturday had been a routine day on the course.

"Tomorrow may feel a little different," he said. "There's a little bit more on the line than what we normally play for and you're trying to represent your country to the best of your ability."

He was impressed by Matsuyama, who is playing his first event since testing positive for COVID-19, which forced him to miss the Open Championship.

"He seems to be fine," Schauffele said. "Teeing up, he seems strong, he seems normal and he seems himself. Luckily he wasn't hit too hard by it.

"He was firing on a lot of cylinders when he won the Masters. He's maybe not in his realm of perfection, hitting it as well as he'd want to, but he's one back.

"Hideki's a great player, our current Masters champion. I plan on wearing that [green] jacket some day as well. I assume we'll be playing in more final groups for years to come."


JAPAN EXPECTS, CAN HIDEKI DELIVER?

After the blow of Naomi Osaka losing early in the women's tennis, her fellow global superstar is coming good on the golf course.

Matsuyama has been surprised by his recovery from COVID and would love a medal from Tokyo's Games, expressing obvious pleasure at being in the mix so soon after being ill.

"I definitely could not have believed that," he said. "The endurance part of my game has been struggling a little bit, but thankfully it's held up in the last few days. Hopefully it will hold up tomorrow as well."

The host nation awaits a home golfing champion, and Matsuyama is up for the challenge of taking on Schauffele and the chasing pack.

He was asked how the Olympic experience compares to the pursuit of a major.

"There's not much difference to it, but in the Olympics the fact is that third place is still celebrated, as well as second, so there's a nice thing waiting for you even if you get third place," Matsuyama said.

"At a major championship, only the winner will be celebrated. I'm not sure tomorrow what my motivation will be, but I'm going to focus on playing good golf.

"I played with Xander in the third and fourth day together at The Masters. I'm sure Xander will come out determined to win the gold medal, so hopefully on my end too I'm going to come out strong on the mental side."


HOW LOW CAN THEY GO?

If Schauffele and Matsuyama are both to be overtaken on Sunday, it may take a score in the low 60s to snatch away gold.

Tommy Fleetwood showed that is possible with a 64 in the third round, as the Great Britain player climbed to a share of ninth on 10 under, alongside Ireland's Shane Lowry.

His team-mate Casey sits alongside Ortiz on 12 under, tied for third, with four players sharing fifth spot: Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Colombian Sebastian Munoz, Mito Pereira of Chile and Austrian Sepp Straka.

McIlroy said:"I've got a great chance going into tomorrow. It's a bit of a packed leaderboard so all to play for.

"It's going to be brilliant. A lot of us are trying to do something that none of us have ever done before.

"There's a lot of us that are going to be going through experiences that we've not experienced."

Rory McIlroy claimed he needed to take a step back from golf after his frustrating performance at the Open Championship, but the Olympics appear to have been just the tonic.

McIlroy carded 70-70-69-71 at Royal St George's to finish tied for 46th, well off the pace set by champion Collin Morikawa.

However, the four-time major winner has returned to form across the first two days of the men's golf at the Tokyo Olympics, and is in a tie for seventh along with fellow Team Ireland representative Shane Lowry.

Team USA's Xander Schauffele, who has backing in Japan – where his mother was raised – leads the way with 11 under, but McIlroy's five under par on Friday has put him firmly in medal contention.

Two birdies and an eagle on the front nine saw McIlroy leap up the leaderboard, though a bogey on his last hole saw McIlroy drop back to seven under overall.

It marks a welcome return to form for the 32-year-old, whose victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in May is his only success since 2019.

"My mental game more than anything. I think all the tools are there physically. Mentally there were a few things over the weekend at St George's," McIlroy said when asked what he needed to change after his disappointing display at the Open.

"Even getting off to that hot start on Saturday and not being able to keep it going and then the two tee shots I hit off 14 at the weekend were absolutely horrific. It was more a mental thing, I was crapping myself about hitting it out of bounds right and I hit it so far left with a 3-iron and I chunked a 2-iron on Sunday as well.

"I was just thinking too much about consequences and when you do that you are not as effortless, you are not as free, athletic, instinctive, all that sort of stuff. 

"I actually needed to get away from the game a little bit so I didn't touch the clubs for most of the week." 

McIlroy had low expectations ahead of making his Olympic debut, but is thrilled to be fighting for a podium place and is already casting an eye towards the Paris Games.

"The goal today was to get back in touch," he said.

"That was my thing I just wanted to get into contention going into the weekend and at least feel like I was part of the tournament and I've done that.

"It's funny when you sort of approach tournaments like that it's funny how you end up playing some of your best golf. Sometimes you can want things too much. 

"I didn't know if this was going to be my only Olympics I am going to play and I am already looking forward to Paris [2024]. Just the experience and this is obviously a very watered down experience compared to what it usually is."

Xander Schauffele fired a 63 to move top of the leaderboard at Tokyo 2020, while home favourite Hideki Matsuyama and Rory McIlroy made big moves on Friday.

The threat of serious weather caused another delay on day two, and eventually brought an early end to play with Matsuyama among those not to finish his round.

But Schauffele, who has a big support in Japan as his mother was brought up in the country, sat pretty at 11 under as the stellar names bared their teeth at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

SCHAUFFELE SHUFFLES UP TO TOP SPOT

Sepp Straka was the overnight leader of a very unusual looking leaderboard after the first 18 holes but a level-par 71 means he is now three shots back.

Instead it is Schauffele, a perennial nearly man in the majors, who leads the charge for gold at the halfway stage.

The world number five had two bogeys on his card but also had a pair of eagles to go with six birdies in a sublime round.

Mexico's Carlos Ortiz is only a shot further back after a four-under 67.

HOME HOPE HIDEKI ON THE MOVE, MCILROY IN CONTENTION

Matsuyama was among the pre-tournament favourites in Tokyo, a status enhanced after making a major breakthrough at the Masters in April.

After starting with an opening 69, Matsuyama was six under through 16 holes of his second round and eight under overall for the tournament.

McIlroy matched Matsuyama's round-one score but shot five under in round two and is well in the mix four shots back.

Shane Lowry, the 2019 Open champion, and Paul Casey are also at seven under with McIlroy.

Champion Golfer of the Year Collin Morikawa and Patrick Reed have work to do at three under, while Justin Thomas is one under for the tournament with a hole to play in his second round.

Rory McIlroy has praised fellow Olympians Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka for sparking fresh discussion around mental health in sport.

American Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast, pulled out of the individual all-around final and the women's team final this week to focus on her mental wellbeing.

Japan's Osaka withdrew from this year's French Open tennis and opted not to play at Wimbledon after speaking of battles with depression and anxiety, although she has taken part in the Olympics.

Four-time golf major winner McIlroy, who is representing Ireland in his first Olympics, has previously opened up about his own struggles.

And the 32-year-old said he was fully behind Biles, Osaka and other athletes for ensuring discussions around the subject are "not taboo anymore".

"I live in the United States and anything that came on the TV about the Olympics it was Simone Biles. I mean it was the Simone Biles Olympics, right?" McIlroy said.

"To have the weight of 300-whatever million [people in the USA] on her shoulders is massive.

"Just as I thought Naomi Osaka was right to do what she did at the French Open and take that time off and get herself in the right place, I 100 per cent agree with what Simone is doing as well.

"You have to put yourself in the best position physically and mentally to be at your best and if you don't feel like you are at that, or you are in that position then you are going to have to make those decisions.

"I'm certainly very impressed, especially with those two women to do what they did and put themselves first.

"I'm glad that at least the conversation has started. There's been a few athletes that have really spoken: Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles. The conversation, it's not taboo anymore."

McIlroy believes an athlete suffering from mental health issues should not be viewed any differently from one suffering from a physical injury.

"People can talk about it. Just as someone has a knee injury, or an elbow injury, if you don't feel right 100 per cent mentally that's an injury too," he said.

"I think in sports there's still this notion of powering through it, digging in and you're not a competitor unless you get through these things. I think that's probably part of it.

"But then when you hear the most decorated Olympian ever talk about his struggles and then probably the greatest gymnast ever talk about her struggles, you know then it encourages more people who have felt that way to come out and share how they're feeling."

McIlroy has been a little out of sorts heading into the Olympics, a tie for 59th at the Irish Open preceded a missed cut at the Scottish Open while he shared 46th at the Open Championship.

However, the world number 13 now has more coping mechanisms to handle the mental strain of competing at the highest level and fluctuations in form and performance.

He saud: "I certainly have a few more tools in my mental toolbox to maybe deal with things than I had a few years ago. Again, it's just trying to put yourself in an environment in which you can thrive. That's the bottom line.

"Someone like Naomi Osaka was trying to put herself in that environment in the French Open and I think the whole sports world was behind that decision. It obviously didn't play out the way she wanted it to, but it certainly started a great conversation."

Sepp Straka was the surprise leader of the golf competition after round one at Tokyo 2020 thanks to a dazzling and record-equalling eight-under 63 at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The 161st-ranked Austrian sat one stroke clear of Jazz Janewattananond, with Thomas Pieters and Carlos Ortiz only two strokes back.

Play was delayed for around two hours on Thursday due to dangerous weather conditions and a host of star names were off the pace after the first 18 holes.

STRAKA SURPRISES TO EARN SHARE OF HISTORY

The unheralded Straka, whose twin brother is on his bag this weekend, tied the record for the lowest single-round score at an Olympics with his 63.

"It was just a steady round. I really hit the ball well and I didn't put myself into trouble. I took advantage with the putter," Straka said.

"I got hot with my irons, especially my short irons, my wedges. I was really knocking down the flagstick and really tried to stay aggressive."

He made four gains on the way out and as many on the way home in a fine bogey-free round, and this round came despite him missing six of his past seven cuts.

HIDEKI, MCILROY AND CO HAVE WORK TO DO

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is carrying the home hopes in Tokyo this week and was six shots back.

He was four under through eight but gave one back before the turn and dropped another shot at 11.

Rory McIlroy and Open victor Collin Morikawa are also at two under, with Patrick Reed five back and Justin Thomas at evens after making 18 pars.

Everyone expected Caeleb Dressel to be one of the swimming stars of the Tokyo Games, and the American lived up to the hype on Thursday. 

Dressel started strongly and held off rival Kyle Chalmers of Australia at the end to win the 100m freestyle, the 24-year-old's first individual Olympic gold after taking two relay wins in Rio and one earlier this week.

The Floridian swam the 100m free three times in Rio and his time got worse from the preliminaries to the semi-finals to the final, ultimately leaving him sixth overall at 48.02 while Chalmers won gold with a 47.58.

This time, Dressel was at his best when it mattered most, posting a 47.02 to break an Olympic record that had stood since Beijing 2008.

Afterward, he described winning his first individual gold as a weight off his shoulders.

"It is different," Dressel said. "I didn't want to admit it but now that I did it, I can.

"It's a lot different – you can't rely on anyone else. It's just you and the water, there's no one there to bail you out. It's tough."

Winning the gold in a head-to-head showdown with the reigning champion made victory even sweeter.

"It's so fun going with Kyle – I mean, every time we make it good," Dressel said. "It's really fun to watch when we go head-to-head.

"I've got nothing but respect for him."

CROATIA'S ROWING BROTHERS GOLDEN AGAIN

Brothers Valent and Martin Sinkovic have teamed up to win a rowing medal for the third consecutive Olympics. 

The Croatians took gold in the men's coxless pair event at Sea Forest Waterway, leading throughout the race and winning by 1.29 seconds over Romania's Marius Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa.

The Sinkovic siblings won gold in the double sculls five years ago in Rio after making up half of Croatia's quadruple sculls team that took the silver medal in London in 2012.

They are the first rowers to win gold in both the pair and double sculls since Canada's Kathleen Heddle and Marnie McBean did it in 1992 and 1996.

"It's an unbelievable feeling, hard to describe," said Valent, the older of the pair at 32. "This is like a new gold medal for us because it's in a second discipline, so we celebrate it like it's the first one for us.

"We couldn't be happier. Everything went as planned, we executed the race perfectly."

As for looking toward a potential fourth medal at Paris 2024, Martin Sinkovic said the brothers were done with pairs competitions but might look to row the four in three years' time. 

RIO POLE VAULT BRONZE MEDALLIST OUT WITH COVID

Sam Kendricks of the USA, the 2016 bronze medallist and 2017 world champion in the pole vault, has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not compete in Tokyo, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced.

The USOPC said Kendricks has been transferred to a hotel and been placed in isolation in accordance with protocols.

"Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed," the USOPC said. "Out of respect for his privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time."

Earlier on Thursday in its daily media briefing, the International Olympic Committee said three athletes were among the 24 people who had come back positive for COVID-19 in the most recent round of testing.

STRAKA HAS CLUBHOUSE LEAD AS GOLF GETS UNDER WAY

Austria's Sepp Straka went out with the first grouping in the opening round of the men's golf tournament and set the pace for everyone who teed off behind him, taking the clubhouse lead with a 63 on Thursday morning.

Ranked 161st in the world this week after missing the cut at six of his last seven PGA Tour events, Straka turned in a bogey-free round at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, carding four birdies on the front nine and four more on the back.

Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Carlos Ortiz of Mexico finished with six-under-par 65s among the early starters to sit two back of the lead.

Several major winners including Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Collin Morikawa were still on the course.

AUSTRALIA OPEN RUGBY SEVENS DEFENCE WITH ROUT

Defending women's rugby sevens gold medallists Australia made a statement as they opened pool play with a crushing 48-0 defeat of hosts Japan after leading 24-0 at half-time.

Emma Tonegato got three tries while Demi Hayes and debutant Maddison Levi had two each for Australia, who face China later on Thursday.

"I definitely was concerned about this game," said Australia's head coach John Manenti. "Japan, playing at home, it would be very emotional for them and the pressures and expectations could have built on us.

"But I was really pleased with that clinical first half. We could relax at the end of the game and give a few of the girls debuts."

New Zealand, beaten finalists at Rio 2016, began their Tokyo campaign with a 29-7 win over Kenya.

REIGNING BMX GOLD MEDALLISTS ADVANCE TO SEMIS

BMX racers opened competition at Ariake Urban Sports Park, with defending gold medallist Connor Fields of the USA and current world number one Sylvain Andre of France among those booking their spots in the semi-finals.

Andre's countryman Joris Daudet had the top time of the day in his last run to make Friday's semis along with Rio 2016 bronze medallist Carlos Ramirez of Colombia.

On the women's side, world number one and Rio 2016 gold medallist Mariana Pajon of Colombia won all three of her preliminary races to advance, along with 2016 silver medallist Alise Willoughby of the USA.

Willoughby's team-mate Felecia Stancil turned in the best overall time of the day on her first run and also is one of the 16 semi-finalists.

Justin Thomas described being involved at the Tokyo Olympics as "the coolest thing I've ever been a part of" as he said taking the gold medal would be "the absolute ultimate".

Golf is being staged at the Games for just the fourth time ever and the second time since 1904, having returned to the schedule in Rio five years ago.

The field is not the strongest, with Bryson DeChambeau and world number one Jon Rahm pulling out with coronavirus, while Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia opted not to play and Brooks Koepka failed to qualify.

But many other big names will take part, including ​world number four Thomas, who won his only major at the US PGA Championship in 2017 and is among those targeting a medal at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The United States are the only nation with more than two golfers taking part in the event and Thomas says the chance to win gold for his nation is what makes this event so unique.

"It might be the coolest thing I've been a part of. It's not very often where you get so excited about being a part of a tournament," he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

"I really do truly think of Ryder Cups, majors, whatever it is, this is the coolest thing I've ever been a part of. It's unbelievable. Everyone is going to think differently about it.

"I know there's some people who don't think it's that big a deal and don't think it's that cool. 

"I don't know what it is but maybe it's just because being an Olympian, you're known as the best athlete in the world and it's something that golf isn't exactly always linked to."

Asked whether he would rather win a major championship or an Olympic medal, Thomas replied: "If I was going to choose, I'll take the major. 

"But this is something that would mean the absolute ultimate. It would just be the coolest thing to just be able to say not only did you play in it but that you won a gold medal.

"It's just so different. I've tried to compare it, I've tried to think about it.

"This is obviously more special because it's harder to win because you have less chances, but major championships change your life in more than one way."

Like Thomas, Ireland's Rory McIlroy will tee off at the Olympics for the first time when the delayed 2020 event gets up and running on Thursday.

Four-time major winner McIlroy sampled the the course on Tuesday and was impressed by the quality, though he is disappointed that no supporters will be in attendance this week.

"When Hideki [Matsuyama, of Japan] won the Masters, the first thing I thought of was how good is the atmosphere going to be at the Olympics," McIlroy said.

"Unfortunately, that's not the case. So yeah, it's tough.

"It's not the Olympic experience anyone dreams of having. I was even saying to Shane [Lowry] how good would it be to go and watch some of the other events this evening. 

"That's the unfortunate part about it, but there's three medals up for grabs, and we're all here trying to play for them."

McIlroy, who has been drawn with tournament favourite Collin Morikawa and South Korea's Sungjae Im, added: "The course itself is great. It's really, really nice.

"I've always been a big fan of Tom Fazio courses anyway. I'm trying to sort of think what I could compare it to back in the States, but it's a really fun golf course

"It's in great shape, obviously. It's immaculate. There's plenty of opportunities out there for birdies, but if you don't hit the fairways, the rough is pretty penal in spots."

Ireland's other representative in the men's golf tournament is Shane Lowry, who is ranked 40th in the world but is eager to challenge for a top-three finish.

"What people don't understand is we don't win too many medals," he said. "So I think it would be huge for me and huge for the country.

"Obviously it's going to take a lot of good golf. It's going to take something special this week. But it would mean an awful lot to me."

Japan's great golf hope Hideki Matsuyama has revealed he feared he would miss the Tokyo Olympics when he tested positive for COVID-19.

The Masters champion pulled out before the second round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit on July 2, and the 29-year-old has not played competitive golf since, missing out on the Open Championship.

He has also not had a top-20 finish since landing green jacket glory at Augusta National in April, slightly dampening hopes of a home gold medallist at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, where the men's tournament begins on Thursday.

Matsuyama hopes a strong mental approach can stand him in good stead as he returns to a course that holds fond memories for the 29-year-old.

It is where he won the 2010 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, securing him a first ticket to The Masters and serving as a springboard for his professional career.

"To be able to represent Japan and play in my home country and a home Olympics, this is probably the first and last time I'll be able to do that," Matsuyama said in a news conference on Tuesday.

"Three weeks ago I got tested positive for COVID-19 and wasn't really sure I'd be able to make it to this stage here. Now I'm here and I'm very happy to be able to be here.

"I tested positive for COVID for about 10 days in duration. During that time I was unable to practise, but once I got back to Japan I started practising.

"Hopefully I'll be able to be in the best form possible for the event this week."

Matsuyama said he was "very happy" to test negative ahead of the Olympics, and the significance of the venue is not lost on him.

"In a way, Kasumigaseki has been the place and catalyst for me to progress and grow," he said. "Hopefully I can do the same this week and move on to another level. 

"Since my Masters win, I haven't had the best results so far this summer, so I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's going to be fun and I'm going to try my best to do well.

"I'm going to try to overcome any physical deficit with the mental side."

With his golf commitments, Matsuyama said he had found little time to watch fellow Japanese competitors from other sports in the Games, although he has been keeping tabs on their success in the medals table, with the hosts challenging near the top.

"Hopefully I can follow their footsteps and be in a position to win a medal as well," he said.

Cameron Champ's three-day charge up the 3M Open leaderboard ended at the top on Sunday as the American took his third PGA Tour title.

Champ spread five birdies throughout a bogey-free final round at TPC Twin Cities, shooting 66 to finish the tournament at 15 under par.

That was two strokes better overall than the trio of Louis Oosthuizen (66), Charl Schwartzel (68) and Jhonattan Vegas (68), who tied for second at 13 under.

The 26-year-old Californian winner looked like he would need that cushion on the final hole as he yanked his tee shot well off the fairway, but a perfect approach shot gave him a two-foot putt for par and the title.

Champ battled his own body at times in the Minnesota heat, moving slowly late in his round and occasionally bending over while waiting to hit his shots.

He hung on at the end, though, adding a third title to his previous two PGA Tour wins at the 2019 Safeway Open and the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship.

"I was definitely dehydrated, but obviously I feel a lot better now," Champ told reporters, adding that he began to feel light-headed when he bent down to place or pick up his ball marker.

"Not sure why I was, because I drank a lot of water. You have so much adrenaline going and I was just trying to control that."

Sunday's near-miss was a familiar feeling for all three of the men who shared second place.

Oosthuizen has been runner-up in four of his last seven starts, while Vegas finished second for the third time this season and Schwartzel for the second time.

Keith Mitchell (67) finished a shot behind that trio to take fifth place, a day after recording seven consecutive birdies on the back nine.

Third-round leader Cam Tringale had a desperate day, shooting 74 to finish six strokes back of Champ at nine under.

Among other notables, Sergio Garcia (67) finished at eight under after his best round of the week, while Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed were at six under after closing with 71s.

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