KPMG Women's PGA Championship marks last chance to qualify for Olympics
This week is a special one at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Not just because it’s one of the biggest championships on the professional golf calendar, but also because this marks the final event prior to the women’s Olympic field is determined.
While many of the races for Olympic spots have been long confirmed – Gaby Lopez even took to Twitter earlier this week to say she had been named as the official female flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo – things remain tight for a number of the countries, including the United States.
Teams will be finalized based on the Rolex Rankings. A country can have up to four representatives as long as they are ranked inside the top 15 in the world – otherwise as many as two players from their respective countries are eligible.
The two tightest races are between the United States and South Korea.
Nelly Korda, who is ranked third in the world, leads the Americans. She’s followed by Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson and sister Jessica Korda – who is currently ranked No.13 in the world.
Kang said prior to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship teeing off on Thursday that qualifying for the Olympics has been a dream-come-true for her.
“I can't speak for what Olympics mean for a lot of people, but for me it's everything,” said Kang. “Weirdly, as of May, when the Olympics qualification got extended an extra 15 months, I cried and panicked because I qualified back then, and I felt that, if I didn't qualify again for some reason, for whatever happened, I technically didn't qualify yet I did, but I couldn't call it an accomplishment.
“For me to have to re-accomplish something that has been my life goal and dream was really tough on me. I couldn't stop looking at the Rolex rankings. I couldn't stop worrying about what other people did up until this week, secured.”
There are a trio of golfers on the outside – but just barely – and looking into the last spot on the American squad.
Ally Ewing is ranked 18th in the world and if she has a good week at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, she could top Jessica Korda. Jennifer Kupcho (No. 24) and Austin Ernst (No. 26) also have a decent shot at jumping Korda for a spot on the American squad. Kupcho and Ernst will need impressive finishes this week at Atlanta Athletic Club in order to earn an Olympic spot, but the opportunity is there. Both Ernst and Korda were tied for third after the opening round at Atlanta Athletic Club.
On the South Korean side things are even tighter. There are seven golfers from South Korea in the top 20 of the Rolex Rankings.
Jin Young Ko and Inbee Park are Nos. 1 and 2 in the world (Park is the defending gold medalist), while defending KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner Sei Young Kim is No. 4 in the world. Hyo-Joo Kim is No. 8, while So Yeon Ryu is No.16, Min Ji Park is No.19 and Ha Na Jang is No. 20.
The Rankings were frozen between March 2020 and July 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sung Hyun Park, another golfer from South Korea, was impacted the most by the pause. She was No. 3 in the world in June of 2020 and the second-ranked South Korean then. A year later, she’s ranked outside the top 30.
So, while some golfers have already booked their tickets to Tokyo, this weekend at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship there will be an extra layer of pressure for those trying to get to the Olympics as it’s not just the leaderboard at Atlanta Athletic Club some golfers are jockeying for position on.