Monday July 22nd, 2024 12:25PM

Olympic spots are on the line for Patrick Cantlay and Corey Conners at the US Open

By The Associated Press

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — David Puig of Spain knew the score even before he teed off in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. All he had to do was make the cut to move past Jorge Campillo and earn a spot in the Olympics this summer in Paris.

“Unless someone like Eugenio Chacarra wins,” Puig said earlier in the week.

He wasn't thinking about Sergio Garcia, who also is still in the mix at the U.S. Open. With golf and the world ranking, there's always more math involved than adding scores on a card.

The U.S. Open is the final week before the Official World Golf Ranking is used to determine the 60-man field for the men's competition at Le Golf National.

Each country is allowed two players, with a maximum of four if they all are ranked among the top 15 in the world.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and PGA champion Xander Schauffele, who won Olympic gold in Japan three years ago, already are assured a spot. Still to be determined is the other two players from the United States, along with tight races in Canada and possibly South Korea.

United States

Wyndham Clark has held down the No. 3 spot for the Americans for much of the year, and he still looks to be fairly safe.

Collin Morikawa, who lost in a playoff for the bronze medal in Tokyo, seized control of the fourth spot when he was runner-up at the Memorial last week. Morikawa already has played in the final group of two majors this year.

Patrick Cantlay, however, emerged as a contender with rounds of 65-71 that left him one shot out of the lead going into the weekend. A victory would move him ahead of Clark in the world ranking, and a two-way tie for second might be enough to bump Morikawa.

Morikawa still has the golf ball in his hand, even after a 74 on Friday left him in a tie for 51st going into the final two days at Pinehurst.

Cantlay has never spoken much about the Olympics, saying at the start of the year only that “any time you have the opportunity to represent your country, it's important.” He was in a similar situation for the Tokyo Games, falling short in the final qualifying week at Torrey Pines.

Winning a major was his top priority at Pinehurst.

Canada

Nick Taylor sewed up his spot in the Olympics by winning the Phoenix Open in early February, and it has been a revolving door of candidates ever since — Corey Conners, Adam Hadwin, Dallas winner Taylor Pendrith and Mackenzie Hughes.

Hadwin finished third at the Memorial and leaped past Conners for the No. 2 spot for Canada.

But then Hadwin missed the cut at the U.S. Open. Connors, with a game built for tough majors like the U.S. Open because of his supreme iron play, put together rounds of 69-70 and was tied for ninth going into the weekend.

Pendrith, who was 1-over par through two rounds at Pinehurst, also was still alive. Hadwin can only watch to see how it unfolds.

Conners would need to finish 11th alone at the U.S. Open to move past Hadwin. Pendrith would need at least a two-way tie for third (and then that might depend on what Conners does).

South Korea

Tom Kim and Byeong Hun An appear to have the two spots locked up, especially with Sungjae Im missing the cut.

The only player who can bump out An — who missed the cut — is Si Woo Kim, though he would need a two-way tie for third. Kim was seven shots out of that position going into Saturday.

As for Im, he isn't likely to lose any sleep over this. Im (and Si Woo Kim) won the team gold in the Asian Games last year in China, and that made them exempt from mandatory military service. For South Korean men, that's better than gold.

A word on Britain

Team Britain is set with Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick after Justin Rose and Robert MacIntyre missed the cut.

Most curious is Tyrrell Hatton, who is only four spots behind Fitzpatrick in the world ranking.

Hatton was tied for ninth through 36 holes at Pinehurst. Something in the top 10 might have been enough to move past Fitzpatrick. Something a little better might have given Britain three players because Hatton currently is at No. 20.

However, Hatton decided to remove his name from Olympic qualifying and is no longer eligible.

Australia

Adam Scott has never liked the idea of golf in the Olympics and removed his name from consideration, leaving Jason Day and Min Woo Lee virtually locked up for Australia.

Former British Open champion Cameron Smith is a long shot. He started the weekend at 3 over and would need to finish third to have any chance of bumping Lee.

Spain

Here's where it pays to play for LIV Golf (beyond the obvious).

The Saudi-backed league does not get world ranking points. That actually helped Puig when he compiled a series of good finishes on the Asian Tour because the ranking formula is points earned divided by tournaments played over a two-year period.

Puig has the minimum divisor of 40. So does Garcia, another LIV player. Garcia could finish second at the U.S. Open and that would be enough to move past Puig.

It's a long shot. And nothing is settled until the scores are in Sunday, the world ranking is published and the National Olympic Committee from each country certifies who's going.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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