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With its top players deciding to forego the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Australia announced its men's golf team of Scott Hend and Marcus Fraser on Wednesday. The country's most successful women's golfer, Karrie Webb, was missing for a different reason — she failed to qualify.
No. 1-ranked Jason Day and Marc Leishman (Zika virus) and Adam Scott (scheduling) said they wouldn't play in Rio, leaving the 81st-ranked Hend and No. 86 Fraser to play in golf's return to the Olympics after 112 years. With all the other major pullouts, including Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Hend and Fraser go into the Olympic tournament ranked 27th and 28th in the 60-man field.
Minjee Lee (No. 14) and Su Oh (No. 41) will play on the women's team for Australia, leaving Webb, a seven-time LPGA major winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member, on the sidelines after her ranking of 58 failed to see her qualify.
Webb, 41, has told fellow golfers of her excitement at playing at the Olympics since Sydney hosted the Games in 2000, and was part of the push to get golf back into the Olympics. She needed a strong finish at last week's U.S. Women's Open — top 10 or better — and hope that Oh missed the cut in order for her to overtake Oh in the rankings.
Oh missed the cut, but former No. 1-ranked Webb finished at 5-over, tied for 46th, and improved her ranking by just one place.
"I'm sad for Karrie Webb not fulfilling her dream of representing her country in the Olys as she is the greatest golfer Aussie has ever had," American golfer Meg Mallon tweeted after it became official that Webb had missed out.
Lee and Oh won Karrie Webb Scholarships in 2013 and 2014 to aid in their development in the game. The $10,000 amount for each was funded by Webb.
The one side benefit from Webb missing out on the Olympics is that she might not retire, and perhaps try to stay in the hunt for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
"I said I was going to retire when I was 35, and I'm 41 now, so still going," Webb said before the Women's Australian Open earlier this year. "I think when you're 18, 30 seems like it's a long way away, but from experience it comes around pretty quickly. I don't know what the future holds for me as far as full-time playing. I'm concentrating this year on a full schedule and hopefully making the Olympic team and then just re-assessing where things are at the end of the year."
Hend, who will turn 43 during the final round of the 72-hole stroke-play event in Rio, said he's ready to make the most of his opportunity.
"I've never been to Brazil and ... I'm looking forward to pulling on the green and gold as it will be something different," he said.
The Perth, Western Australia-born Lee won her second LPGA Tour tournament in April in just her second year as a professional. Oh, also 20, has second- and eighth-place finishes on the LPGA Tour this year.
"When my parents brought my big sister, my little brother and me to Australia when I was eight years old, I didn't even play golf," said Oh, who was born in Busan, South Korea. "They could never in their wildest dreams have imagined one of us would represent Australia in the Olympic Games. It's a dream come true for my whole family."
Former British Open winner and now television broadcaster Ian Baker-Finch will lead the golf section of the Australian team at Rio.