Indian Olympic hopefuls stay focused on Tokyo Olympics despite postponement of mega-event and extension of qualifying date

The one-year postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has been subsequently followed by the joint announcement of the International Golf Federation (IGF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the qualifying date for the men’s golf event has been extended to June 21, 2021.

In other words, golfers now will accumulate Olympic Golf Ranking (OGR) points through a period ending on June 21, 2021.

The Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) has currently been paused until further notice with professional golf inactive at the moment across the globe. The world rankings have been frozen at Week 11 (the week ending March 15th and 16th 2020). The rankings will be active once again whenever the OWGR deems fit.

So how does this impact Indian golfers who are vying for the two Olympic berths available to them.

Before the Olympics were postponed and the world rankings frozen, India’s two highest-ranked golfers Rashid Khan (185) and Udayan Mane (223) had the best chance of qualifying for the mega-event.

However, if we are to presume that competitive golf resumes sometime later this year, a window of opportunity for Olympic qualification has now opened up even for the likes of Shubhankar Sharma (283) and Shiv Kapur (287), the next two highest ranked Indians in the world.

Rashid Khan, a two-time Asian Tour winner, had been on a hot streak since 2019 having won the PGTI Order of Merit title thanks to two wins and eight other top-10s. Rashid earned back his Asian Tour card for 2020 and began the season on a promising note with two top-10s in Asia. But Khan doesn’t mind the sudden break in his momentum as he sees the bigger picture.   

Rashid said, “It was a little disappointing as things were going pretty well for me and we were into the Olympics zone with just four months left. But health is more important. The world is going through a tough time so there was no choice but to postpone the Olympics and the qualification date.

“This is not in our hands. Whenever the Games happen, I will be ready. I’m not thinking too much about it now because the situation is the same for everyone.

“Looking at the positives, this gives me more time to train and get better. I’ve also got some much-needed rest after playing so many tournaments continuously. Right now, I’m fine with staying at home,” added Khan, who keeps busy by playing on his PlayStation and spending time with his nephew during the lockdown.

Udayan Mane was in the form of his life when the golfing world came to a standstill. Udayan, the 2020 PGTI Order of Merit leader, had won three consecutive titles on the PGTI before finishing runner-up in his last event. Nonetheless, Mane is determined to stay focused towards his goals.

Udayan said, “The step (postponement of the Olympics) is the best move at the moment as the safety of athletes is of paramount importance. People like me who are within the qualification criteria for the Games as of now know the winning formula and those who are fighting for the Olympic berths have a year to qualify.

“It doesn’t change much for me. I am sticking to my plan of achieving my long-term goals and improving my game. I will use this time to raise my skill levels and enjoy the challenge thrown by other aspirants,” added Mane, who has been spending his time at home by playing the guitar, sketching and cooking.

Given the situation, Shubhankar Sharma, a two-time European Tour winner, is not thinking too much about the Olympics at the moment but looking forward to playing any tournament when the Tours (European and Asian) start. Sharma feels, once he starts playing well and even winning, everything else will fall in place.

Shubhankar said, “Postponement is the right decision because there are bigger issues for the world to address at the moment.

“For me personally, with the Games now postponed to 2021, it is now an open race and anyone can make it. The postponement gives me time to get my form back and be where I was two years ago. Well, that is very much possible whenever the season starts for us.”

Four-time Asian Tour winner Shiv Kapur, who like Shubhankar, was just outside the Olympic qualification criteria, when the world rankings were paused, is now also hopeful of making the most of his opportunities over the next one year in order to qualify for the Olympics.

Kapur said, “The months from March to May are a busy time for the golfing calendar around the world. We missed out on those months this year. So, I feel it is a fair and logical decision to extend the qualifying date for the Olympics as at least two full years of qualifying period is needed.

“Even if I was within the qualification criteria at this moment, I would’ve still felt the same way. You want Olympic berths to be decided on best recent form.

“I feel this recent development opens up the doors for qualification for others including myself. I’m hoping we can resume golf as early as August this year which would give me a good chance of getting back in the mix as far as the Olympics are concerned,” added Shiv, who has been kept on his toes by his two-year-old daughter while spending time at home.

About PGTI:

Formed in 2006, Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) is the recognised official body of professional golf in India. PGTI's objective is to promote professional golf in the country, as well as to give players an opportunity to be involved in the decision making on all aspects of the game. Headed by Mr. Gautam Thapar (President), PGTI's governing body comprises leading Indian golf professionals. PGTI currently has over 300 members.

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