Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Olympic golf doesn't have to be boring in 2016

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Golf will return to the Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but if the field were filled today based on the International Golf Federation’s current proposed plan, the host nation would be shut out of the men’s competition.

Rory McIlroy said Olympic golf, as it is organized now, would be about individual players, not their countries.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Rory McIlroy said Olympic golf, as it is organized now, would be about individual players, not their countries.

It would also exclude more than half of the world’s top 50 players, more than two-thirds of the top 100 and up to 15 nations that were theoretically the targets of the whole growth initiative that golf’s Olympics bid was based upon.

That’s not exactly the recipe golf needs to avoid being, as one international columnist opined, “the dullest competition of the games” and avoid being dropped after 2020.

“We need to put on a good competition in ’16 or otherwise the potential exists that we could be out after ’20,” PGA Tour Vice President Ty Votaw said in 2009 after being one of the principal leaders in golf’s bid to secure a spot in the Olympics after more than a century’s absence.

Unfortunately, the proposed 60-player men’s and women’s competitions will have so little depth and such a limited scope that it figures to be practically dead on arrival unless the IGF can convince the International Olympics Committee to accept some tweaks to boost participation and intrigue.

As is, the fields would be smaller and significantly weaker than current limited-field WGC events and have no national-team component.

“At the end of the day you’re still playing for yourself in a way, the way the format is at the minute,” said Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 golfer in the world who won last week’s PGA Championship.

Even R&A chief executive Peter Dawson seems uninspired by the format he helped spearhead across the finish line three years ago.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to make the Olympic competition a little bit different, at least, from the week in, week out competition?” Dawson said after July’s British Open. “But thoughts of an element of match play, thoughts of an element of team competition have been raised with us many times, and it’s those areas we’ll be having a look at.”

But Dawson stressed the chances of changing in the next four years – even though the Olympic course in Brazil hasn’t started construction – are small.

“Golf’s bid was based on individual competition,” he said. “It was accepted on individual competition, 72‑hole stroke play. In order for that to be changed – and I’m not sure that it ought to be changed – but if it were to be, we’d have to get agreement from the IOC sports department.”

Through all the buildup leading to the IOC accepting golf’s bid in 2009, IGF officials argued inclusion in the Olympics would be the catalyst for governments to release funds to support golf development programs in countries where the game’s growth is embryonic.

Dawson spoke of “maximizing the number of countries that can earn a medal.”

To ensure quality representation, the original proposal called for the top 15 players in the world ranking to be included regardless of nationality. But the IOC has asked for a maximum of four players per nation. There are currently nine Americans in the top 15, meaning five would be excluded under the limits.

Exclusive national team limits are in keeping with other Olympics sports and should help open the door for other nation’s to be included.

Format is another matter.

It’s unlikely the world’s best players will be willing to squeeze in more than 72 holes to represent their countries in what will already be a Ryder Cup year for many of the representatives from Europe and the United States.

Tiger Woods, one of the key figures in sparking interest from the IOC, endorses the standard stroke-play format.

“One of the things that’s positive about a straight 72-hole format is that it provides the opportunity to have the most players on the back nine with an chance to win a medal,” Woods said.

There are simple ways, however, to tweak the current format that would create even more medal opportunities – including national teams – without forcing the players to play more than 72 holes.

Doubling the field size could include up to 50 percent more nations and 30 percent more of the world’s best players to spark the competition.

If the field were established based on the official world rankings after July’s British Open, the current IGF proposed format would only include 23 of the top 50 players, 32 of the top 100 and players from 31 nations.

None of the players would hail from Brazil, only six from South America and three from Africa.

If the Olympics invited 21 four-man national teams – with a minimum of two per continent plus an automatic team invitation to the host nation – and up to 36 more individual entries (maximum two per nation), a field capped at 120 would have world-ranked players from at least 46 nations. It would include as many as 30 of the top 50 and 45 of the top 100.

This alternative proposal would include 21 golfers from South America, including national teams from Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Chile. At least eight players from each continent would be guaranteed a spot in the Olympics.

The format would remain 72-hole stroke play, with a 36-hole cut that keeps each member of the top 10 teams (based on cumulative score of the top three scorers each day) plus any players among the top 50 scorers including ties. You would end up with somewhere between 50 and 70 players reaching the weekend.

After 72 holes, individual and team gold, silver and bronze medals would be awarded. The team medals would be based on the cumulative totals of the team’s top three scorers every day – similar to the way the NCAA Tournament used to operate.

In this alternative format, the top-ranked players still get to play for themselves and Olympic glory while also being part of a team that requires no extra effort.

The bonus is guys down the pecking order of the leaderboard will still have to play their guts out because the team score and medal hopes are counting on them.

That could be just enough to make the Olympics stand out a little bit from the already crowded golf schedule that features majors, WGCs and tour playoffs.

“We have seven big events right now in this stretch, and we’re adding an eighth,” said Woods. “It’s going to be a very, very busy summer for us as golfers. But it’s also the Olympics, and it is a very big event and something that we haven’t historically been involved in. It’s always a first to be involved in something to that magnitude, and if I make it, that would be great.”

ALTERNATIVE FIELD, FORMAT FOR GOLF IN 2016 OLYMPICS

ENTRIES

• Take four-player teams from a maximum of 21 countries, using the world rankings to fill out the team rosters. After eight continental minimum teams are fulfilled plus an automatic invitation to a team from the host nation, the remaining 11 teams can be based on average world rankings or establish qualifying tournaments in three regions (Americas, Europe/Africa, Asia/Oceania).

• Take a maximum of 36 individual entries. Limit two individual entries per nation unless.

• That would be a maximum field of 120.

FORMAT

• Play 72 holes of stroke play, with a 36-hole cut that keeps each member of the top 10 teams (based on cumulative score of the top three scorers each day) plus any players among the top 50 scorers including ties. You would likely end up with somewhere between 50 and 70 players reaching the weekend.

• Continue playing the remaining 36 holes, awarding individual gold, silver and bronze medals. Individuals who make the cut would be qualified to earn world ranking points.

• Award the gold, silver and bronze team medals based on the cumulative totals of the team’s top three scorers every day.

FIELD

• A list of teams and competitors if it was based on the world rankings list as of the conclusion of the 2012 British Open. Players are listed by world ranking and the team’s average world rank is in parentheses.

• This field would include as many as 30 of the top 50, 45 of the top 100 and world-ranked players from 46 or more nations.

• The current IGF proposed format would only include 23 of the top 50, 32 of the top 100 and players from 31 nations.

The Details

CONTINENTAL PARTICIPANTS

Europe 51

Asia 31

South America 21

North America 12

Oceania 10

Africa 9

TEAMS

HOST NATION (1)

BRAZIL (850.5)

468. Adilson da Silva

825. Alexandre Rocha

932. Lucas Lee

1177. Fernando Mechereffe

NORTH AMERICA (2)

USA (5.5)

2. Tiger Woods

5. Webb Simpson

7. Bubba Watson

8. Jason Dufner

CANADA (300.25)

210. David Hearn

233. Graham Delaet

341. Adam Hadwin

434. Richard Scott

SOUTH AMERICA (2)

ARGENTINA (202.75)

11. Andres Romero

220. Angel Cabrera

212. Ricardo Gonzalez

335. Tano Goya

COLOMBIA (457.5)

159. Camilo Villegas

427. Camilo Benedetti

618. Diego Vanegas

661. Rafael Romero

EUROPE (2)

GREAT BRITAIN (19.0)

1. Luke Donald

4. Lee Westwood

10. Justin Rose

28. Ian Poulter

SWEDEN (39.0)

30. Peter Hanson

39. Carl Pettersson

41. Fredrik Jacobson

55. Robert Karlsson

AFRICA (2)

SOUTH AFRICA (32.0)

15. Ernie Els

19. Louis Oosthuizen

22. Charl Schwartzel

52. Branden Grace

ZIMBABWE (806.0)

125. Brendon de Jonge

639. Ryan Cairns

1,268. TC Charamba

1,269. Ignatius Mkwtekete

ASIA (2)

SOUTH KOREA (50.5)

36. K.J. Choi

42. Bae Sang-moon

76. K.T. Kim

82. Y.E. Yang

JAPAN (84.75)

64. Ryo Ishikawa

72. Hiroyuki Fujita

88. Toru Taniguchi

136. Koumei Oda

OCEANIA (2)

AUSTRALIA (29.75)

6. Adam Scott

21. Jason Day

35. John Senden

48. Geoff Ogilvy

NEW ZEALAND (407.5)

193. Danny Lee

396. David Smail

516. Steven Alker

541. Michael Hendry

WILDCARD NATIONS (11)

IRELAND/NORTHERN IRELAND (41.0)

3. Rory McIlroy

11. Graeme McDowell

60. Padraig Harrington

89. Darren Clarke

SPAIN (41.75)

25. Sergio Garcia

43. Gonzalo Fdez-Castano

44. Rafael Cabrera Bello

46. Alvaro Quiros

DENMARK (86.5)

40. Thomas Bjorn

53. Anders Hansen

99. Thorbjorn Olesen

119. Soren Kjeldsen

ITALY (110.25)

23. Francesco Molinari

65. Matteo Manassero

163. Edoardo Molinari

211. Lorenzo Gagli

FRANCE (144.5)

110. Raphael Jacquelin

138. Victor Dubuisson

146. Gregory Havret

166. Julien Quesne

THAILAND (152.25)

108. Thongchai Jaidee

133. Thaworn Wiratchant

179. Kiradech Aphibarnrat

211. Prayad Marksaeng

GERMANY (232.75)

18. Martin Kaymer

59. Marcel Siem

363. Alex Cejka

463. Maximilian Kieffer

INDIA (251.25)

86. Jeev Milkha Singh

207. Anirban Lahiri

282. Gaganjeet Bhullar

358. S.S.P. Chowrasia

AUSTRIA (349.25)

113. Bernd Wiesberger

421. Markus Brier

450. Martin Wiegele

493. Florian Praegant

NETHERLANDS (352.25)

92. Joost Luiten

311. Robert-Jan Derksen

476. Guido Van Der Valk

570. Tim Sluiter

PHILIPPINES (415.75)

154. Juvic Pagunsan

490. Tony Lascuna

508. Elmer Salvador

572. Angelo Que

CHILE (445.25)

222. Felipe Aguilar

425. Mark Tullo

454. Benjamin Alvarado

788. Hugo Leon

INDIVIDUALS (36)

33. Nicolas Colsaerts, Belgium

78. Vijay Singh, Fiji

137. Jhonattan Vegas, Venezuela

175. Siddikur Rahman, Bangladesh

191. Fabrizio Zanotti, Paraguay

206. Ricardo Santos, Portugal

243. Lu Wei-chih, Taiwan

321. Mardan Mamat, Singapore

349. Mikko Ilonen, Finland

413. Liang Wen-Chong, China

430. Jose-Filipe Lima, Portugal

497. Joonas Granberg, Finland

509. Chan Yih-Shin, Taiwan

510. Zaw Moe, Myanmar

545. Marco Ruiz, Paraguay

565. Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, Mexico

626. Espen Kofstad, Norway

665. Pierre Relecom, Belgium

717. Danny Chia, Malaysia

728. Mithun Perera, Sri Lanka

732. Zhang Xin-jun, China

733. Martin Rominger, Switzerland

740. Knut Borsheim, Norway

785. Oscar Serna, Mexico

810. Rafael Campos, Puerto Rico

879. Robert Wiederkehr, Switzerland

958. Quincy Quek, Singapore

972. Guillermo Pumarol, Dominican Republic

993. Shaaban Hussein, Malaysia

995. Diego Larrazabal, Venezuela

1,075. Birgir Hafthorsson, Iceland

1,161. Dinesh Chand, Fiji

1,288. Rafael Claux, Peru

1,405. Madalitso Muthiya, Zambia


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