June 23 (Reuters) - Five players to watch out for at the Tokyo Olympics:
KIM SI-WOO (SOUTH KOREA)
A three-times winner on the PGA Tour, Kim Si-woo could soon have his golfing career interrupted as his home country of South Korea requires all males between the ages of 18 and 28 to fulfil a two-year military obligation.
Kim, whose biggest victory came when he won the 2017 Players Championship -- golf’s unofficial fifth major -- would only be granted an exemption for his military service if he were to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA (JAPAN)
The top-ranked Japanese golfer by far, Matsuyama was already widely considered a favourite for the men’s golf competition in Tokyo even before his Masters triumph in April made him the first Japanese golfer to win a men’s major championship.
Matsuyama will be in familiar surroundings when he makes his Olympics debut as the Kasumigaseki Country Club that is hosting the golfing competition was also the site of one of his previous big wins, the 2010 Asian Amateur Championship.
RORY MCILROY (IRELAND)
Rory McIlroy cited concerns about the Zika virus for sitting out the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, he later conceded it was in large part to being put in the difficult position of having to pick between playing for either Ireland or Team Great Britain, which covers his home country of Northern Ireland.
McIlroy, a four-times major champion and one of the game’s most high-profile players, is aware his decision will ruffle some feathers but has come to terms with his choice and embraced the chance to represent Ireland on the global stage.
PARK INBEE (SOUTH KOREA)
Heralded as one of the greatest golfers in the women’s game, Park Inbee is only four wins away from matching compatriot Pak Se-ri’s record for the most LPGA Tour wins by a South Korean but has said her top priority is to defend her Olympic title.
Park is in the midst of a solid season, one that she kicked off with a wire-to-wire, five-shot victory in March for her 21st LPGA Tour victory.
SHANSHAN FENG (CHINA)
Chinese golf pioneer Shanshan Feng, who has turned heads on the course with her signature cow-print pants, is the first player from her country to win a major championship, an Olympic medal in golf (bronze) and to be ranked world number one.
The 31-year-old Feng only returned to action in April after a 16-month hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a visa delay but has shown solid form as she targets a gold medal in Tokyo. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto Editing by Christian Radnedge)