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By Tom Makin

Golf’s return to the Olympic Games? Not so golden


iming is everything when it comes to the golf swing. But when it comes to golf’s return after 112 years to the Summer

Olympics this August in Brazil, the timing is off. By four years, to be exact. Had the sport returned at the 2012

Summer Games in London, a much better stage would have awaited: an array of established and well-regarded courses to choose from; easier travel for the world’s best golfers, and a much brighter spotlight than it will receive in Rio, where real-life distractions such as the Zika Virus, government corruption and terrible pollution issues will likely dominate the coverage. Regardless of the timing though, will

golf’s return to the Summer Olympics have the desired effect of growing the game around the world as supporters say it will? Barring a last-putt, upset win by a complete unknown over a famous name — thereby generating worldwide headlines and inspiring underdogs everywhere — I doubt it. Here’s why. First off, the format will be just like

any other tournament you can watch virtually every weekend: 72 holes of individual stroke play. You might as well call it the John Deere Rio Open. In fact, this year’s actual John Deere Open will be played the week after the Olympics, due to scheduling changes created by said Olympics. The PGA Championship also was moved up to July from August for the same reason. Then there will be the field, less

than half the size of a regular PGA Tour event. The men’s competition will have 60 players (as will the women’s field) with golfers from approximately 34 countries. The top 15 men’s and women’s golfers in the world rankings

44 | AZ GOLF Insider | SPRING 2016

as of July 11th will qualify, but only up to four per country within that group. Right now, for the men, that means the USA team will consist of Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson. Good chances for a medal or two from that group. After that, the highest ranked golfer from a country is in, with a limit of two golfers per country until the total of 60 is reached. As the host nation, Brazil is guaranteed one spot (right now that would go to

Brazil (official flag shown here) is the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

One problem — she’s not in the Whether I win an

Olympic medal or not is not going to define my career or change whether

I’ve fulfilled my career. —Adam Scott

Adilson da Silva, ranked 332nd in the world). He won’t be the only unfamiliar name with slim chances of winning. Plus, more than one top-ranked

player has expressed indifference about the whole thing. “Whether I win an Olympic medal or not is not going to define my career or change whether I’ve fulfilled my career,” Adam Scott has said. On the flip side though, there is Michelle Wie. “I’ve dreamed about it since I was a little girl but I never thought I’d have the chance,” she told Sports Illustrated. “Finally golf is in the Olympics and my dream can come true.”

top 15 of the world golf rankings right now and wouldn’t make the team (Lexi Thompson, Stacey Lewis, and Cristie Kerr would). Don’t get me wrong though; there are parts to look forward to for television viewers. Getting to see a brand new Gil Hanse-designed layout —former R&A head honcho Peter Dawson recently compared it to the Old Course due to its wide fairways and potentially windy conditions — will be interesting, and broadcast coverage will be provided by NBC, which should mean some interesting commentary from Johnny Miller. But will an event that happens once

every four years — as opposed to four times every year, in the case of the majors — truly have an international impact? I don’t see it. Better to spend the Olympic golf money on mountains of equipment, an army of golf instructors to provide lessons and practice areas with a nine-hole course in countries that want to grow the game. Don’t forget: golf is only on the

Olympic roster this summer and four years from now in Tokyo. After that, the International Olympic Committee will review it. So enjoy the sight of some familiar golfers taking part in the experience this August, but expect golf to return to the footnote status it already owns in Olympic history. n

Tom Mackin is the managing editor of Troon magazine and also writes for many other national publications.

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