Tokyo Olympics: Rahm, McIlroy, Inbee and Korda the headline golfers going for gold

By Sports Desk July 02, 2021

After an absence of 112 years, golf made a grand return to the Olympics schedule at the 2016 Rio Games.

Now, four years on, another stellar cast from the men's and women's games are descending on Tokyo aiming to stand atop the podium.

While several big names once again opted out – including former world number one Dustin Johnson – amid a demanding schedule during the traditional major season, the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Nelly Korda offer plenty of star attraction.

With that in mind, Stats Perform provides an overview of those competing for golfing glory in Japan.

RAHM, BRYSON, MCILROY AND THOMAS THE HEADLINE ACTS

Justin Rose missed out on qualification, meaning there will be a new gold medal winner in the men's competition. And what an achievement it would be for Rahm to add an Olympic accolade to his name fresh off breaking his major duck with a fine U.S. Open triumph last month. McIlroy finished in a tie for seventh at Torrey Pines and, having previously been among the biggest critics of golf at the Olympics, is to make his Games debut representing Ireland aiming to add a gold medal to his four career majors. There are four male representatives from a star-studded United States cast that includes three major winners in the form of Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Colin Morikawa. DeChambeau had been well in contention to win the U.S. Open before a final-round collapse, with Morikawa finishing fourth. Xander Schauffele – the final American male in action – was tied seventh and is sure to have plenty of support given his mother, who was born in Taiwan, grew up in Japan.

KORDA OUT TO TAKE INBEE'S CROWN

Inbee Park is one of the all-time greats and the seven-time major victor is among the favourites to retain her gold medal from Rio four years ago. Ko Jin-young provides another strong South Korean hope, as do countrywomen Kim Sei-young and Kim Hyo-joo. But it is Nelly Korda who travels to Tokyo with all the momentum. The 22-year-old took the Women's US PGA Championship last month to ascend to the top of the LPGA rankings for the first time. Elder sister Jessica Korda also qualified, while their brother Sebastian is in line to represent the United States in tennis. Major winners Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson complete a strong four-woman contingent. Filipino sensation Yuka Saso, who won the U.S. Open this year, is another to watch out for in the women's competition.

MATSUYAMA, HATAOKA OUT TO MAKE MOST OF HOME ADVANTAGE

Hideki Matsuyama made history by becoming the first man from Japan to win a major tournament with his glorious triumph at the Masters back in April. Moreover, the 29-year-old has previous at the Kasumigaseki Country Club – a venue where he won the Asia-Amateur Championship in 2010. A quiet man he may be on the course, but expect fireworks from Matsuyama in Tokyo. In the women's field, Nasa Hataoka is the highest-ranked Japanese player gunning for gold. With eight professional wins to her name, Hataoka went agonisingly close to securing a maiden major when she lost out in a play-off to then-teenager Saso at the U.S. Open. Hinako Shibuno, the 2019 Women's British Open champion, missed out on selection with Mone Inami instead Japan's other female representative.

Related items

  • Rose ends four-year PGA Tour title drought with Pebble Beach triumph Rose ends four-year PGA Tour title drought with Pebble Beach triumph

    Justin Rose ended a four-year PGA Tour title drought with a three-shot victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Monday.

    Rose led by two strokes when play was suspended due to darkness at Monterey Peninsula Country Club on Sunday.

    The Englishman returned to end a run of 67 PGA Tour events without being crowned champion, carding a six-under 66 to finish on 18 under.

    Rose resumed at the 10th hole, securing a par before picking up three birdies through the next four holes to keep his rival at bay.

    The 2013 U.S. Open champion added another three pars to finish his round and finally get that winning feeling on the PGA Tour once again.

    His previous PGA Tour triumph came at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January 2019.

    Brendon Todd and Brandon Wu shared second place on 15 under after signing for final rounds of 65 and 66 respectively. 

    Denny McCarthy and Keith Mitchell were a further shot back on a memorable Monday for Rose.

  • Leeds set for another new era after Marsch sacking, but will it be same old story against Man Utd? Leeds set for another new era after Marsch sacking, but will it be same old story against Man Utd?

    At the end of February 2022, Leeds United bosses had seen enough.

    "This has been the toughest decision I have had to make," said chairman Andrea Radrizzani at the time.

    Leeds had taken just one point from six games, leaving them only two points above the relegation zone. A 4-0 home defeat by Tottenham was the final straw for Marcelo Bielsa, who was dismissed on February 27. 

    At the beginning of February 2023, Leeds United bosses had again seen enough as they parted company with Bielsa's successor Jesse Marsch.

    Leeds have taken just three points from their past seven games, leaving them level on points with Everton in the final relegation spot, albeit having played a game fewer than the three teams below them.

    Unlike Bielsa, who ended the club's long wait to get back into the Premier League and then guided them to a ninth-placed finish in their first season back, Marsch never truly won over the fanbase.

    Whereas Bielsa had murals dedicated to him all over west Yorkshire throughout his time in change, with his exit doing little to impact the esteem he's held in around Leeds, Marsch's year in charge will likely soon be a distant memory.

    Indeed, the 95-word statement put out by the club on Monday confirming his departure – with no comment from Radrizzani or his peers – was as brutal as it was damning.

    And so Leeds are now on the lookout for a new man to keep them in the division, with Carlos Corberan – who has impressed in his four months at West Brom – the early frontrunner to take charge.

    Bielsa is also reportedly among the contenders to succeed the man who succeeded him, while Mauricio Pochettino, Ange Postecoglou and Ralph Hasenhuttl have been touted as other options.

    New manager bounce?

    Pulling the plug on Marsch's tenure was a big call by Leeds chiefs, coming in the same week they face Manchester United in back-to-back Premier League games.

    It will be only the second time in the competition's history that the same two teams have met in successive games, following Arsenal's 2-0 and 4-2 wins over Bolton Wanderers in January 2010.

    Leeds are in a race against time to bring a new man in before the first of those games at Old Trafford on Wednesday, although they then have a further four days ahead of welcoming their fierce rivals back to Elland Road.

    As it stands, Marsch's assistant Chris Armas, who previously worked as Ralf Rangnick's right-hand man at Old Trafford last season, is expected to oversee the midweek match in Manchester.

    A new manager bounce would come in handy for at least one of those games. In the view of many Leeds fans, simply having anyone other than Marsch in the dugout will boost their chances of getting a result.

    Whether it be a caretaker or a permanent head coach, though, history suggests bringing in someone new ahead of playing United very rarely pays off.

    Of the 16 previous occasions a manager or caretaker has taken charge of his first Premier League match against United, the Red Devils have won 12 times, drawn once and lost only three times.

    However, the most recent such instance was just three months ago when Unai Emery inspired Aston Villa to a 3-1 home win against Erik ten Hag's side, ending United's nine-match winning run in such encounters.

    Emery joins an elite list that also includes Alan Curbishley and a certain Jose Mourinho, who masterminded wins over United in their first Premier League games in charge of West Ham and Chelsea respectively.

    Little joy for Leeds

    Perhaps a more telling statistic, though, is the one that highlights just how badly Leeds have performed in this fixture down the years, regardless of who has been at the helm.

    Leeds have won only one of their past 17 Premier League games against the team from across the Pennines, with that a 1-0 victory in September 2002.

    That winless run goes back even further when only accounting for top-flight matches played at Old Trafford, where they were last victorious in February 1981. 

    Returning to the elite after 16 years away has done little to change the one-sided nature of this fixture, with Leeds losing three of their four meetings over the past two campaigns and drawing the other.

    The 15 goals they have conceded against United in 6-2 5-1 and 4-2 defeats are second only to the 16 shipped against Manchester City over that same period.

    Furthermore, since the start of last season, Leeds have taken just one point from their eight games against sides starting the day in the top three.

    Marsch or not, this was always going to be a match in which the odds were stacked massively against Leeds, particularly with their opponents on a 13-game winning streak at Old Trafford in all competitions.

    That is the Red Devils' best run since a record 20 wins in a row between December 2010 and September 2011.

    Plenty to play for

    Ending that barren run will go a long way to boosting Leeds' survival hopes, although ultimately whoever comes in will have 16 matches after this week's unique double-header to steer the Whites to safety.

    Without a win in seven Premier League games, with that the longest ongoing run of any side, it hardly came as a big surprise to see Marsch given his marching orders on the back of 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest.

    The American departs with a Premier League win percentage of 25 across his 32 matches, which is the second-lowest of any Leeds boss in the division after Eddie Gray (24 per cent).

    Another new era now beckons at Elland Road, and whoever it is that replaces Marsch will have their work cut out in the short term keeping Leeds above the dotted line.

    Whether that can be achieved remains to be seen. But if we have learned anything about Leeds throughout the Premier League era, it is that it will certainly make for entertaining viewing either way.

  • Durant, Lakers, Warriors – Big questions ahead of NBA trade deadline Durant, Lakers, Warriors – Big questions ahead of NBA trade deadline

    The latest Kyrie Irving saga is over with time to spare before the trade deadline, but how will it impact the rest of the NBA?

    The Dallas Mavericks agreed a trade for Irving and Markieff Morris on Sunday, sending Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Brooklyn Nets.

    That shake-up had been anticipated as Irving pursued a trade, yet it leaves plenty to ponder ahead of Thursday's deadline.

    Stats Perform considers the week's key questions as those hoping to be in contention respond to the Mavs' big move.

    How does Durant react?

    Irving and Kevin Durant arrived in Brooklyn together in 2019 but, for myriad reasons, the Nets never saw the best of them as a pair as they started only 71 regular season games together.

    Durant repeatedly stood by Irving as various controversies threatened to derail the team, yet he has now been left behind.

    While the package the Nets received from the Mavs should ensure they have enough to put around Durant and remain competitive, what does the two-time Finals MVP want for himself?

    The suggestion over the weekend was the Phoenix Suns – under new ownership – would be keen on making a move for Durant if he became available, and there would be other potential contenders who would see the attraction of a genuine superstar to get them over the line.

    Durant has failed previously to force his way out of Brooklyn, but his situation is certainly worth watching.

    What now for the Lakers?

    If not the Mavs, the Los Angeles Lakers seemed the most likely destination for Irving, with Russell Westbrook and two unprotected first-round picks said to make up the package offered to the Nets.

    The Nets were understandably unconvinced by Westbrook's ability to have an impact in 2023, however, and now the Lakers must regroup.

    Superstar LeBron James could be forgiven for being far from impressed with the team's inability to secure a trade he had pushed for, and his cryptic Twitter posts as news broke of the Mavs deal would suggest that is the case.

    It is expected the Lakers will remain active ahead of the deadline, but Rob Pelinka's promise to only use the team's draft picks in "a move that puts us as a front-runner to get another championship" somewhat limits their potential moves.

    The Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors have plenty of players they could move, yet none that fall into that category. Someone like Bradley Beal could perhaps be a possibility if the Lakers are determined to go all-in on helping James.

    Do the Warriors have a move?

    As the Mavs moved for Irving, news elsewhere indicated another shift in the Western Conference: Stephen Curry's leg injury is set to see him miss multiple weeks.

    The Golden State Warriors are the defending champions but also cannot afford to be without Curry, given their middling 27-26 record.

    This team looked set up to succeed long term, balancing the veteran brilliance of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with a cast of exciting young talents, led by Jordan Poole.

    But between the drama of a clash between Green and Poole, Curry's repeated fitness issues and the Warriors' generally middling form, there was already no room for error before the reigning Finals MVP went down again.

    With an upturn required and Curry missing, Golden State may have to deal some of their young prospects – former number two pick James Wiseman being an obvious candidate – in order to improve their roster.

    Is Anunoby as big as it gets?

    With the Raptors seen as willing sellers, O.G. Anunoby has been popular in trade rumours for weeks now. As the deadline nears, it seems inevitable he will move.

    A number of teams with designs on winning the title would benefit from the versatile Anunoby and his ability on both ends of the floor, averaging 16.9 points and 2.1 steals per game.

    The New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies appear to provide the most likely landing grounds.

    But will that be it? If Durant stays put, will Anunoby be the most significant mover of the final days before the deadline?

    After the Irving trade, that seems very low key, but the NBA always has the facility to surprise...

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.