News All Articles
Paris 2024: Why the battle for a spot to represent Japan at Olympic Games might be the fiercest

Paris 2024: Why the battle for a spot to represent Japan at Olympic Games might be the fiercest

By Mathieu Wood

The race for qualification to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics is hotting up, perhaps summed up best by the fight for a spot to represent Japan.

Japan trio
From L-R: Ryo Hisatsune, Keita Nakajima and Rikuya Hoshino

With Hideki Matsuyama, who lost out in a play-off for the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, currently eligible by virtue of featuring among the top 15 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), eyes are on who will join the Major Champion in teeing it up as their second representative at Le Golf National.

And there is an argument for saying the race for qualification for the men's competition at Paris 2024 among Japanese golfers might be the fiercest.

Since February and up to now, the opening week of April, a different player has occupied the second qualification spot in the Olympic Golf Rankings (OGR).

Following his maiden DP World Tour title at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in February, Rikuya Hoshino replaced Ryo Hisatsune, who had occupied the qualifying spot since the tail end of last season.

Hoshino, who was given the honour of hitting the opening tee shot at his home Olympics in 2021, had twice finished runner-up on the DP World Tour earlier this season.

Hisatsune, who won the Cazoo Open de France to claim his maiden DP World Tour title at Le Golf National last year on his way to becoming the first Japanese player to be named Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, reclaimed the spot from Hoshino on March 11 with a top-20 finish at the Puerto Rico Open on the PGA TOUR.

But, in just his 11th start on the DP World Tour, Keita Nakajima became the third Japanese first-time winner in the last six months as he cruised to victory at the Hero Indian Open on Sunday.

As a result, the 23-year-old – a former amateur World Number One – overtook both Hisatsune and Hoshino as he climbed to a career-high 78th in the OWGR and thereby moving into the top 60 men’s golfers on the OGR.

To highlight just how tight the competition is, the trio are separated by just 10 places in the OWGR: Nakajima (78), Hisatsune (86), Hoshino (88).

Takumi Kanya, another player with status on the DP World Tour this season, is also not to be ruled out after he won the Token Homemate Cup on the Japan Golf Tour to make it two Japanese winners in the men's game over the weekend and climb to 108th in the world rankings.

Opportunity now knocks for Hisatsune, who will this week warm up for his maiden Major Championship appearance at next week’s Masters Tournament by playing in the Valero Texas Open on the PGA TOUR.

A dual member of both the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR, Hisatsune was awarded an invite to participate in the 88th playing of the year’s first Major in recognition of his breakthrough campaign last year.

By contrast, both Nakajima and Hoshino are not due to be in action again until the DP World Tour’s ISPS HANDA – CHAMPIONSHIP in their homeland from April 25-28.

By then, Hisatsune could well have regained the second qualification spot.

However, Nakajima, thanks to his victory in India last week, sits top of the Asian Swing - the third of five Global Swings on the 2024 Race to Dubai.

With just two counting events on the swing left, in Japan and China, he will be hopeful of capitalising on the opportunity of earning an exemption to compete at the U.S. PGA Championship.

The DP World Tour members who finish in positions one to three in the final Asian Swing standings (at the conclusion of the Volvo China Open on May 5) will be exempt into the second men's Major of the season at Valhalla Golf Club from May 16-19.

Nakajima became the fifth Japanese winner in DP World Tour history and his victory, the seventh by a Japanese player, emphasises the remarkable purple patch for his nation on Tour.

When Hisatsune won the Open de France in September just over 40 years after Isao Aoki had become the Tour's first winner from Japan, only Hideki Matsuyama's Masters Tournament win and two World Golf Championships triumphs had come in between. However, we now have multiple Japanese winners in the same season.

With less than 75 days to go until the qualification period for the men's golf competition at Paris 2024 ends on June 17, expect the race among Japanese golfers to go right down to the wire.

Read next