Olympic Golf: Who, what... and why?August 9, 2016 Golf News
The beginning of something beautiful or just one more event on an already bloated schedule?
WHY IS GOLF IN THE OLYMPICS THIS SUMMER?
Having not featured as an Olympic sport since 1904, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) voted in 2009 for golf to be reinstated for the Brazil games.
SHOULD GOLF EVEN BE IN THE OLYMPICS?
Not according to some. In April, the 1976 gold medal-winning swimmer, David Wilkie, dismissed claims that golf’s inclusion would widen its appeal. Other critics have rounded on environmental concerns surrounding the course and have claimed the restricted selection criteria will see many top stars miss out.
On the other side, tennis and now boxing are just a couple of the professional sports that get the Olympic treatment.
WHAT IS THE FORMAT?
This has been a bone of contention. It’s a 72-hole strokeplay event – the same kind of competition as is played nearly every week on the various tours. A team event and a matchplay format were just a couple of the alternative ideas dismissed.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE WATCHING?
The broadcast audience for the London games in 2012 was approximately 3.64 billion. Nearly half the world’s population will tune in at some point.
HOW ARE THE TEAMS PICKED?
The top 15 in the world rankings are eligible, with a limit of four from a given country. After that, selection will be based on world rankings – with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not have two or more players already in the top 15.
IS THERE A LADIES’ EVENT AS WELL?
Yes, there is. Sixty women will also line up in an individual strokeplay competition on the same course. The ladies, such as world No 1 Lydia Ko, seem far more enthusiastic than some of the men.
WHAT’S THE COURSE LIKE?
Gil Hanse is behind the design, which was formed out of a nature reserve in Western Rio de Janeiro. A par 72, weighing in at 7,350 yards, it’s expected to have a links feel. A test event, in March, saw the course find favour with the limited numbers that took part. It will return to the public after the Games.
IS IT AS IMPORTANT AS A MAJOR?
That’s the $64,000 question. The withdrawal of some leading players suggests not. Ask Andy Murray how he feels about his Olympic tennis gold. It’s a fair bet that it has an important place in his trophy cabinet. Only playing once every four years may prove a compelling factor in time, though.
WHY HAVE SOME PLAYERS PULLED OUT?
The Zika virus has been a popular excuse but, at the heart of the problem, is a seriously congested schedule. Some high profile players, such as Adam Scott, have opted to concentrate on the Majors and the FedEx Cup. The Open, PGA Championship and Olympics all come within five weeks and, with the FedEx play-offs hot on the heels, some players have decided they have bigger priorities than a new strokeplay event.
WHAT KIND OF AN IMAGE WILL BE PROVIDED TO THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER SEEN GOLF BEFORE?
Golf is settled into the tour routine it’s had for decades but this is a chance to project the sport into the homes of tens of millions of people who have either never seen it, or haven’t considered picking up a club. In the face of this unprecedented visibility, the tournament needs to be exciting, easy to follow and seamlessly run in order to change the stereotypical perception some have of the game.