Will The Rio Olympic Golf Tournament Turn Into a Farce?

Here’s a hypothetical question for you. Let’s say you are a country competing at the Rio Olympics and you have a prestige event, such as the 100m sprint. Each country participating in this event has been allowed to select just three members to compete in the event.

However, due to the fact that Jamaica has a surfeit of hugely talented sprinters, the IOC in its wisdom decides that seeing as Jamaica are just so darn good at sprinting, they can have six competitors. Double the amount of every other team.

Is that fair to all the other teams taking part?

Rio 2012 Logo (resized)

No, I didn’t think it was either.

However, thanks to the International Golf Federation’s (IGF) ludicrous qualifying system for the 2016 Olympic Games, this situation is precisely what is likely to happen at the Rio games.

In its infinite wisdom, the IGF have decided that the top 15 male and female golfers in the World Rankings (as of 11th July 2016) will qualify automatically for the event, with a maximum of four players permitted from any one country.

That would be great if that qualifying system was then followed through, but if you don’t have more than two players inside the top 15 at the end of the ranking period, then the most players you can have on your team is two.

So we are left with the situation where currently, the USA have four male members in qualification positions for the Olympic golf tournament, but no other country has more than two.

United_States_of_America

In the women’s qualification, both the United States and South Korea have four women in the top 15, all other teams will have just two competitors.

Of course, much can change over the course of the next two years before the final qualifiers are decided. Considering how strongly the United States players are ranked in both the men and women’s game, it would be more of a surprise if the USA (and Korea in the women’s game) don’t have their full quota of four players inside the world’s top 15 in two years time.

Now, if this was a tournament for individual players, then that would not be an issue. And while I have no doubt that every golfer who plays in the event will want to win the gold medal, what is absolutely key to remember is that the Olympics are not about individuals.

It is about teams and as such, every effort is taken to ensure that all teams are fairly represented in each event.

Yes there may only be one athlete from Djibouti in the 100m sprint event, compared to three from Jamaica, but that is because the other athletes from Djibouti haven’t reached the minimum qualifying time.  That’s fair enough.

However, in the golf tournament, the IGF seems to have ensured that the golfing superpower the United States, will have double the opportunity of all other teams (bar Korea in the women’s event) to win gold.

Phil Mickelson Open 2

That’s not what the Olympics is about.

Of course, there is an added edge here. Fans are more likely to want to pay to watch Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Bubba Watson than they are to watch Finnish pro Roope Kakko or the Philippines Angelo Que. TV companies are also going to want the big names involved.

However as it stands the tournament is lop sided in favour of the USPGA Tour. That goes against the very Olympic spirit that the games are meant to embody.

Interestingly, when golf was mooted to returning to the games, the IGF did consider having a matchplay  team event, however after speaking to ‘leading golfers from the US’ (Mickelson and Woods) it was allegedly decided to host an individual 72-hole strokeplay event instead.

That would have been fairer, watching 30 countries top two golfers battle together as a team to win gold, rather than simply another somewhat uninspiring 72-hole strokeplay event.

Unfortunately, I think the IGF have got this totally wrong. In an attempt to keep golf on the forefront of our TV screens during the Olympics, and to keep punters rolling through the gates, they have weighted the tournament far too much in favour of one or two countries.

Let’s hope that before the 2020 games, this farcical decision is reviewed and that a fairer golf tournament ensues that is in keeping with the Olympic spirit and not the whims of the golfing elite.

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