The 2016 Olympic Games & Golf

The 2016 Olympic Games, will be the first time golf has appeared at the summer event, since 1904. The session of the 121st International Olympic Committee, in 2009, recommended golf made a return as an Olympic sport and this was agreed upon, with the Olympic Games in Rio, set as the return date.
A new Olympic golf course has been created for the event, at the Reserva de Marapendi in the Barra da Tijuca zone of Rio. There will be a men’s and women’s event, over the dates of 11th to 14th August and 17th to 20th August respectively. The tournament will be a 72-hole, individual stroke-play event, using the official rules of golf. Therefore, for those familiar with the major golf tournaments, this will be nothing new, other than the top three places need to be decided, due to the gold, silver and bronze medals being available. If there is a tie for first, second or third, a three-hole play-off will be used to determine the winner of each medal.
There has been plenty of debate as to whether golf should be included in the Olympic Games but regardless of those who are against it, of which there are many, the tournament is scheduled to go ahead. However, even those involved in the sport, have questioned the decision and this has led to players withdrawing from the event. One of the most outspoken, has been Australia’s Adam Scott. The 2013 Masters winner, was one of the first big name players to announce he would not be taking part in the event, with his schedule being listed as one of the main reasons for his absence. Scott has also commented on the structure of the tournament and how it will be the same as any other golf event, but with a weaker field, something which is of no interest to him. An interesting idea, which Scott has suggested, is to make the Olympic golf event solely for amateurs and he said “I think having a young golfer aspire to be an Olympian is more realistic as an amateur than a professional. It’s just not going to happen for many as a professional, especially the way the qualification system works at the moment.”
Australia would have been looking at the golf event at the 2016 Olympic Games and seeing it as the perfect opportunity to add to their overall medal haul. Australians have both Scott and Jason Day, at the top of world golf right now, in addition to Marc Leishman and the country seemed well equipped to perform. However, Scott is not the only player from Australia to withdraw, as Jason Day has also withdrawn from the event but his concerns are over the Zika virus.
Day joins a number of other golfers, including the likes of Rory McIlroy, Vijay Singh, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace and Graeme McDowell, in withdrawing from the 2016 Olympic Games, due to the threat of the Zika virus. This means, Australia’s top three golfers, will not be participating, which will come as a blow to the country and the organizers, who were hoping to see the world’s best golfers compete.
Ranked as the second best golfer in the world at the time of writing, is Jordan Spieth. The American could represent his country at the Olympic Games, along with US Open champion Dustin Johnson and potentially Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler. What a group of players, one which could be capable of claiming all three medals at the Olympics. Spieth is still uncertain about his participation, which suggests he does not want to play, but the pressure of being the face of American golf, is obviously weighing down on him. Bubba Watson, who is unable to have children with his wife, has announced he will definitely play, although his regular caddy, will not be attending, due to the fact he is still planning on having children and the Zika virus could lead to problems in that respect.
Danny Willett and Justin Rose are in a position to represent the United Kingdom, and nothing has come out of their respective camps, to suggest they will not travel. Both golfers will feel they have a good chance of claiming an Olympic medal in Rio but as things stand, it’s difficult to make predictions, as not even the players themselves, seem to know exactly who will be taking part. There is much more to worry about in regards to the Zika virus than a golf tournament, but the fact the world’s top players are pulling out of the event, will not help keep the sport involved in future Olympic Games. A vote will take place in 2017, regarding golf particapation in the Olympic Games, after the 2020 games in Tokyo. As things stand, it will be touch and go, as to whether golf will survive.
Perhaps a change to a Ryder Cup style format for 2020, with amateur players taking part, will reinvigorate the event. At the moment, the best golfers in the world, have their eyes set on the four major tournaments and unfortunately, the Olympic Games is not one of them. Let’s hope we are all wrong and the 2016 Olympic Games is remembered as a successful return to the games for golf.

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