Jason Day eager to represent Australia at Paris Olympics

<span>Jason Day is back in the world’s top 50.</span><span>Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images</span>
Jason Day is back in the world’s top 50.Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Jason Day has stated his intention to make an Olympic debut in Paris this summer, after the Australian was among a batch of golfers who opted to skip the sport’s return to the Games in 2016.

Day cited concerns over the Zika virus when declaring he would not feature in Brazil and the former world No 1 did not qualify for Tokyo in 2020 amid a career slump and injury troubles. The 36-year-old has more recently enjoyed a resurgence, catapulting himself firmly inside the world top 50. He now has medals on his mind.

“I’ll play,” said Day after completion of his fourth round at the ­Masters. “If I’m in, I’ll play for sure. I’m looking forward to it. I think I made a bit of a mistake not going down to Rio, even though part of it was family related.

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“I kind of missed out on that and I probably should have gone. But if I get the opportunity, I’m looking ­forward to going.”

Day said he has no preference over who dons Australian colours alongside him at Le Golf National. Min Woo Lee seems certain to qualify but the scenario with Cameron Smith is less certain. Smith’s switch to LIV Golf has removed him from the ­official world rankings, which are used to determine Olympic access. The former Open champion only has major championships in which to earn ranking points between now and the Olympics, unless he chooses to make an appearance on the Asian Tour.

“Whoever is playing the well, that would be great,” Day said. “I think Min Woo is playing good solid golf. And obviously Smithy, playing in LIV you don’t get points. He needs to play well in the major championships, trying to shoot himself up the leaderboard.”

It was reported last month that Adam Scott does not wish to ­participate in Paris. The same applies to Brooks Koepka of the United States and Great Britain’s Tyrrell Hatton.

Lee’s Olympic motivation is increased by the fact his sister, ­Minjee, will almost certainly be in the Australian team. Before he departed Augusta National, Lee said Day’s Olympic plans represented ­“unbelievable” news to his nation.

“When you’re a professional, you don’t really get to represent the ­Australian side,” Lee said. “Obviously every week, week in and week out you represent Australia but when you’re an amateur, I got to play for Australia as a team a lot of times. So I do miss putting on the green and gold.

“Obviously having Jason as a ­playing partner and a teammate will be really special. My sister is going to be in there, too, so it will be an unbelievable experience. Hopefully it can stay this way and I can play.”

Both golfers have undoubtedly been influenced by the fact golf has been a great success in the Games. It was not part of the programme for 112 years before Rio. Rory McIlroy was critical of golf’s involvement at that point, but completely changed his viewpoint after representing ­Ireland in Japan. The main issue for male ­golfers this year will be scheduling, the Olympics coming in the midst of a hectic summer of major and FedEx Cup competition.

Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, has suggested LIV could amend its ­format to introduce 72-hole competition. Mickelson’s closing 74 and eight over par aggregate triggered inevitable questions about how valid the LIV circuit is as major preparation.

Mickelson shrugged off the ­theory but did speculate on upcoming change. LIV has only worked on a three-round basis until now.

“I don’t think it matters either way,” said the six-time major ­winner. “Each competitive round is an opportunity to progress and get better. There are guys out on the PGA Tour who play only 36 holes. A lot of guys only play 36 this week. Every ­competitive round is an opportunity to play well and compete. I don’t think it makes a difference either way. We’ve got mini tours playing 54, Champions Tour playing 54.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some or all of LIV events went to 72. I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. I enjoy the competition.” This was a curious thing for Mickelson to volunteer.

LIV’s kudos at Augusta was boosted by the appearance of Smith and Bryson DeChambeau on the upper echelons of the leaderboard. Hatton blasted through the field on Sunday yet Jon Rahm’s Masters defence proved a non-event. The Spaniard, a high profile LIV recruit in December, signed off with a 76 for a nine over par total. Koepka, with whom Rahm battled for much of the 2023 edition, departed Georgia after a 75 which left him on the same aggregate as last year’s champion.

Koepka will hope for considerably better when he defends the US PGA title at Valhalla next month.