(Reuters) - World number two Justin Thomas is "ecstatic" about the possibility of competing in the Tokyo Olympics, as he looks to keep his momentum rolling at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, this week.
Fresh off his first Players Championship win at TPC Sawgrass a week ago, the 27-year-old American is in prime position to secure a spot at the July 23-Aug. 8 Games -- a tantalizing possibility, Thomas said.
"I hope I qualify because I think that would be one of the coolest honors that I've ever had," the 2017 PGA Championship winner told reporters on Monday, after world number one Dustin Johnson confirmed earlier this month that he would skip Tokyo.
"It's probably one of the only tournaments that I would brag about playing in or qualifying for, the fact that I would be able to play for Team USA in the Olympics."
Thomas, who has finished in the top 15 in nine of his last 10 starts, must keep his steady and strong performance going until the end of the men's June 21 qualifying window to book a ticket to the Tokyo Games, which were delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He defeated England's Lee Westwood by one stroke at Sawgrass for his inaugural Players Championship win, earning the applause of 15-times major winner Tiger Woods, who texted his support while recovering from injuries sustained in a brutal car accident last month.
"(Woods) was in great spirits," said the 14-times PGA Tour winner. "My dad said he was texting him the whole day, giving him grief about what was going on, so it was good to see he was watching."
Thomas faces off against fellow American Matt Kuchar, defending champion Kevin Kisner and South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen in the first round of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; editing by Clare Fallon)