Top Chinese stars ready for Olympic teeoff

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 File photo of Feng Shanshan.

Even as world No. 3 Jordan Spieth joined the exodus of top male golfers pulling out of the Olympic Games on Monday, citing fears over the Zika virus, China's top stars — Wu Ashun, Li Haotong, Feng Shanshan and Lin Xiyu — are ready to tee off in Rio de Janeiro next month.

Wu and Li, the top two-ranked Chinese male golfers, finished 37th and 39th, respectively, in the Olympic rankings as of the July 11 cutoff. Feng, the first Chinese golfer to win a major, and Lin finished 11th and 24th in the women's Olympic rankings.

According to Xinhua news agency, they will represent China at the Rio Games, and the International Golf Federation will make an official confirmation on Monday.

Having competed in Tour events in Brazil for the past two years, 20-year-old Li said the Olympic entry was a dream come true as golf makes a return to the Games for the first time in 112 years.

"I'm really proud that me and Ashun will represent China," said Li. "We know each other well and both won on the European Tour this year. I am confident that playing in the Olympics will be one of the highlights of my career and of course I want to do well there."

Li, who is ranked 140 in the world, won the Volvo China Open in Beijing in May for his first European Tour victory.

Wu, 31, meanwhile, won his second European Tour title at the Lyoness Open in Austria last month, making him the only male golfer from China's mainland to own two European Tour titles. He is currently ranked 129th.

This year's Olympics will be without the world's top four male golfers, with American Spieth joining world No. 1 Jason Day of Australia, compatriot No. 2 Dustin Johnson and No. 4 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who earlier announced their decision not to go to Rio.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that the World Health Organization says is spreading rapidly in the Americas. Asked whether the virus would be a concern, China's No. 1 woman golfer Feng said nothing would stop her from making the trip to Brazil.

"China's golf needs a display on the Olympic stage. As a Chinese golfer, I must take part in it," said Feng, who turns 27 next month.

Feng has won four LPGA Tour and six Ladies European Tour titles. She was also last year's leading money winner on the Ladies European Tour and is currently ranked No. 17.

In fact, the women's field at Rio will be almost full strength and will include world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand and No. 2 Brooke Henderson of Canada.

World No. 3 Park In-bee, 27, from South Korea missed the recent US Women's Open in San Martin, California, and the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan due to a thumb injury, but said her condition had become "much better".

Meanwhile, Tiffany Chan of China's Hong Kong is aiming for the top after becoming one of three amateurs to qualify for Rio yesterday.

The 22-year-old university student's spot was confirmed after she finished 56th in the Olympic rankings.

"I'm really excited and happy to be part of the Olympics," Chan said hours after qualifying, adding that she hoped to appear on the leaderboard next month.

"I just have to be patient and try to learn from the other professional players," Chan, who first played on a public Hong Kong driving range at the age of six, said.

Rio will stage Olympic golf for the first time since 1904 with 60 competitors each in the men's and women's events playing a 72-hole stroke-play tournament, with the men playing on August 11-14, and the women on August 17-20.

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