(Very Early) Preview – 2016 Olympic Golf

Rio 2016™ Olympic Games emblem60 – With the Sochi Olympics starting today it got me thinking about the fact that in 2016 golf will be returning to the Olympic stage for the first time in over 100 years. I have some mixed feelings about the event mainly because it will fall right in the middle of the PGA Tour season and could create a host of problems and rescheduling of tournaments, including majors. It seems like the IOC is really putting a lot of faith in the fact that the top players in the world will actually decide to play in two years, but there are a lot of factors that will go into this. In looking at the format and selection criteria I see a number of issues that could muddle the impact and draw of this Olympic event.

Timing

The 2016 games are set to be held from August 5-21, 2016. If that was this year the open weekend of the games would be the same as the PGA Championship. What are the chances the top players in the world tee it up at Baltusrol for four days and then hope on a flight from Newark to Rio for chance at $25,000 (US prize for gold)?

Course

Call me old fashioned but I think if you are bringing golf back to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 that you should be playing on an iconic, world renowned course. That is the exact opposite of what will happen. They are building a brand new course. Pros love going to a place they are familiar with or at least getting in some good practice rounds. Kinda tough to practice when they haven’t built the place yet and oh yeah it’s not close to the majority of the top golfers regardless of their NetJet status.

Format

The tournament will be your typical 72-hole tournament with no-cut and the winner taking home the gold. Is it me or is that incredibly anticlimactic? Again you are bringing back a sport after a 112 hiatus and the best you could come up with is a basic stroke play match? Make it interesting with teams, match play, combination of styles, or maybe something I’ve never heard about. This just seems boring.

Player Selection

This is the part I have the biggest issue with. Let me count the ways:

1. They use the OWGR to select the 60 players in the tournament. The OWGR is tragically flawed as is, but then using it to determine who gets in is just adds to issues people will have with how players are ranked.

2. The top 15 players in the OWGR automatically get in, but there are caveats to that. Only four players per country are allowed in. BIG PROBLEM. You want the best golfers in the world, but if players were selected today that would mean 3 Americans (Strick, DJ and Duff) wouldn’t be in the tournament because there are already 4 ahead of them (Tiger, Phil, Zach and Kuch). Again BIG PROBLEM.

3. After the top 15 the remaining 45 will be selected from the highest ranking players from countries that don’t already have 2 players in the tournament. WTF. Under this format with today’s rankings Jonas Blixt (Sweeden, OWGR #46) is IN. Luke Donald (England, OWGR #20) is OUT. Please tell me how this makes sense. I’m listening

Listen I know the system can’t make everyone happy and that in the end it is about a global competition, but how the hell can you have a tournament meant to represent the best the sport has to offer while not allowing the best to even play. Hopefully some of these issues are resolved in the next 2.5 years, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

JON

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