(Reuters) – American Bubba Watson and Swede Henrik Stenson head an Olympic men’s golf field that has been decimated by withdrawals but nonetheless still includes a decent list of world class players.
On the women’s side, an almost full-strength lineup will include world number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand and number two Brooke Henderson of Canada.
The Olympic qualification period for Rio, based on the world rankings, ended on Sunday and the International Golf Federation subsequently submitted the 60 male and 60 female qualifiers to their various national Olympic bodies for official ratification.
The official teams will be announced next Monday. Few if any changes are expected.
Recent publicity has focused on the ever-growing list of men who have ruled themselves out, including the top four in the world rankings, Australian Jason Day, Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, and Irishman Rory McIlroy.
Most of the players who withdrew cited concerns over Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that the World Health Organization says is spreading rapidly in the Americas.
“There is no doubt the number of withdrawals hasn’t shed golf in the best light,” IGF President Peter Dawson said on Monday. “But we do understand why these individual decisions have been taken.”
The Rio Games field will still include eight of the top 15 men in the world, headed by number five Watson and number six Stenson, with Masters champion Danny Willett (Britain) and perennial major contender Sergio Garcia (Spain) also taking part.
Under the qualification rules, the United States men’s team will have four representatives, because all are ranked in the top 15 in the world, while no other nation will have more than two.
The women’s field will be headed by a powerful four-pronged South Korean team of Park In-bee, Kim Sei-young, Chun In-gee and Amy Yang.
One woman missing from Rio will be 41-year-old Karrie Webb, a former world number one who extended her playing career in an effort to achieve her dream of competing in the Olympics.
However, she was edged from the two-woman Australian team by a pair of 20-year-olds, Minjee Lee and Su Oh.
The men’s Olympic golf will be held from Aug. 11-14, with the women playing from Aug. 18-21.
Both events will be played on the Reserva de Marapendi course, and the formats will be 72-hole strokeplay.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Rex Gowar)