By Paul Myers
The Summer Olympics will be held in Rio in 2016, and golf is set to make its appearance as an official event for the first time in the modern era. While there has been plenty of back-and-forth debate over whether or not golf should be played in the Olympics, those debates are moot at this point with the games just 12 months away. A brand new golf course is being constructed for the event, and the best men’s and women’s players from all over the world are preparing to fight for a chance at a gold medal.
A Race to Make the Team
While many of the best players in the world will be playing in Rio next summer, there are sure to be plenty of notable omissions. Those omissions will occur due to the rules regarding the number of participants eligible from each country. At most, four players from each country will be allowed to enter the field of 60 (for each gender). That means that for a country like the United States, players will be left out who would have otherwise been eligible to play. It also means that two of the biggest names in the history of the sport, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, may very well be left on the outside looking in.
The format for the Olympic golf competition will be 72 holes of stroke play contested over four days. This choice of format was a disappointment for some golf fans, as it is the standard format that is seen week in and week out on the PGA Tour and European Tour. Many felt that it would have been more in keeping with the theme of the Olympics to hold a match play competition. Opting for match play would have set up the potential dream scenario of a gold medal match between such big names as Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. However, the 72 hole stroke play format has been adopted, and there is still likely to be plenty of drama over the closing holes.
Will It Work?
There is sure to be plenty of excitement for the players during their Olympic experience, as any athlete would relish in the chance to win an Olympic medal. The bigger question is how the event will be received by the fans. Golf is a game that is very much structured around the four major championships, and the Olympics are unlikely to supersede those events in terms of stature anytime soon. Unlike other sports, golf fans see the best players in the world compete against each other all throughout the year, meaning the spectacle of the Olympics might not have the same effect that is has in other sports. In fact, due to the qualifying rules, the field in the golf event at the Rio Olympics will be weaker than that of the major championships which will have just been completed. No matter what you think of golf being played in the Olympics, there will be medals handed out to the top three men and women finishers in one year’s time.