Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Olympic Golf Tournaments are Going to be Terrible

We're two years away from the 2016 Summer Olympics, when golf will join the list of Olympic sports. Whether golf needs to be or should be an Olympic sport is something I've always been agnostic about. Personally, I don't care whether golf is left out of the Olympics, which means that it also doesn't bother that it will be included.

But now that golf is part of the Olympics, what kind of tournament will we see in two years in Brazil? I'm glad someone else did the work for me, because I wouldn't want to have to figure out which golfers are likely to be in the Olympics and which aren't. Someone else has already done that: You can see sample fields for both the men's tournament and women's tournament, what those fields would be if the Olympic golfers were chosen today.

And those fields are pretty lame. For example, while all of the current Top 10 men would make an Olympic tournament if it was chosen today, No. 11 Jordan Spieth wouldn't. Neither would Phil Mickelson. Yet, 10 golfers ranked lower than No. 250 would! That includes Chan Shih-chang, Antonio Lascuna, Juvic Pagunsan, Roope Kakko and Thomas Pieters. Right: Guys you've never heard of.

The women's field will be even weaker. If the women's Olympic field were chosen today, Paula Creamer would not make it, but No. 545-ranked Mia Piccio would. Lizette Salas, Jessica Korda and Na Yeon Choi would not get to play in the Olympics, but Maria Balikoeva, Noora Tamminen, Chloe Leurquin, Margarita Ramos, Gauri Monga and Melanie Maetzler would.

The reasons for this are outlined in this explainer. The method for choosing the Olympic tournament fields is based on the idea of including as many countries as possible. I don't have a problem with that.

The problem is that overseers of golf and the Olympics have applied that selection criteria to just another stroke play format, and one with only 60 players in the field. So we're left with what will be very weak fields, devoid of many of the game's stars.

Golf simply doesn't need that. Golf's biggest tournaments are big everywhere, and they are much bigger than these Olympic tournaments will be. If the poobahs had decided on different types of fields - using only amateurs, or using male/female 2-person teams, or whatever - anything other than plain ol' stroke play - maybe I'd feel different.

The first Olympic golf tournaments will generate lots of attention because they are the first. Once that novelty wears off - and if they stick with the current format/selection criteria - Olympic golf is going nowhere but down. And probably out of the Olympics after 2020.

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