Golf’s Return In Rio Divides Opinion

By Ignatius Koh

Photo credit: Keith Allison on Flickr

Golf will make a return to the Olympics next year in Rio after a 112-year absence to much fanfare, with stars like Jordan Speith and Lydia Ko set to compete in the quadrennial event.

While some excitement is expected for the celebrated sport, a lack of competitiveness due to the qualifying format threatens to take the gloss off the event.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) allocated only 60 slots for each of the men’s and women’s competition, the number falls short of at least 100 in the PGA Tour. Furthermore, only the top 15 players from the Official World Golf Ranking will be eligible for the Olympics, with a limit of four players from a single country.

Photo credit: University of the Fraser Valley's on Flickr

Beyond that, players will qualify based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

This means that some of the biggest names will miss out. Currently, 10 Americans fill the top 20 in the men’s world ranking while 9 South Koreans occupy the top 20 for the ladies.

If the Olympics was to begin next month, players such as Zach Johnson and In Gee Chun, winners of this year’s British Open and US Women’s Open respectively, will miss out. Instead, a host of unknown players will take their places, leading to established players like Adam Scott criticising the format.

Aside from saying that the Olympics would not improve golf, he added: "Certainly, with the field criteria, it doesn't necessarily get the strongest field in the game, either."

Photo credit: U.S. Army on Flickr

While the Olympics is seen as a stage where the best athletes compete, this will not be the case for golf. However, not all golfers have dismissed the event as irrelevant.

Reigning Masters and US Open champion Speith has spoken about regarding the Olympics as a ‘fifth major’.

"Winning a gold medal has got to be up there now in my mind with winning a major championship," said World No. 1 Speith.

Indeed, with the PGA Championship shifting back to the end of July instead of its usual early August slot to accommodate the Olympics, golfers will be carrying hunger and momentum into Rio. That, however, is if they make the final cut off on 11 July next year.

The decision to field a smaller list of players may have caused some to play down the importance of the Olympics, but for those heading to Rio, there is no question of commitment.

Photo credit: Krzysztof Urbanowicz on Flickr

Former World No.1 Martin Kaymer said: “The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event in the world, so to play a role in it would be an incredible experience. We very rarely get to be a part of a team or play for our country so it will be an honor for any of us who get to do so.”


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