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South African WDs Provide Opening in Rio for Jaco Van Zyl

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Rio 2016 organizers ran a test event at the Gil Hanse-designed Olympic golf track, but no professional golfers attended. Will the excitement ramp up after the majors, or is the PGA Tour's strength too compelling to leave?

Jaco Van Zyl's Olympic dreams may become a reality thanks to his fellow countrymen's withdrawals...and Twitter.

Van Zyl, who is currently 59th in the world and was a solid third alternate for the South African team this summer in Rio, had no hopes of representing his country in golf's return to the Olympic Games.

That all changed over the course of a few days when Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel both elected not to play in Rio. Van Zyl's girlfriend saw chatter of the possibility on Twitter and broke the news to him.

“I really didn’t think I would [qualify for the Olympics],” Van Zyl told the Golf Channel. “I was third on the [alternate] list, even if one player withdraws or doesn’t make it, the other two would go, right?” Van Zyl is referring to No. 11 Branden Grace. "I had no hope, to be honest."

Photo:

Jaco van Zyl of South Africa, tees off at the first hole during the final round of the French Open Golf tournament at Paris National course in Guyancourt, west of Paris, France, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Michel

Oosthuizen and Schwartzel are among a handful of PGA Tour players who have withdrawn their names from consideration for the Olympics, citing hectic playing schedules. South African golf legend Gary Player voiced his disappointment about their decision not to represent their country on the world stage, but Player can take solace in the fact that Van Zyl is chomping at the bit to go in their place.

Van Zyl underwent double knee surgery two years ago and didn't hit a golf ball for almost a year before having to withdraw from the 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions event in China with a 'snapped screw' in his knee, requiring yet another surgery. In 2015, he rebounded with three top-10s on the European Tour.

So if given the opportunity, would he play?

“Yes, I am. I’m definitely playing," the 37-year-old said. "It’s a great honor and great privilege to represent your country in the Olympics.”

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