What was golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016 like?
At Rio, golf returned to the Games roster for the first time in 112 years. But it did so without many of its top players. Most of the big names stayed away, citing various reasons. Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson blamed their withdrawals on the mosquito-borne Zika virus while some others, like Rory McIlroy, pulled out because Olympic golf wasn’t important enough. In fact, when McIlroy was asked which events at Rio would he watch, he reportedly said: “Probably events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters.”
Why was golf not seen as ‘important enough’ at the Olympics?
A lot of athletes said an Olympic gold should be the pinnacle for an athlete whose sport is part of the programme. That, many feel, is not the case with golf. For instance, the Rio Olympics golf tournament took place exactly when the John Deere Classic, which has total prize money of $4.8 million, with the winner receiving $864,000.
Two majors, too, were held just a month before the Olympics — The Open and US PGA were both played in July. This year, too, The Open – which offers valuable ranking points – will be held less than 10 days before the opening ceremony, meaning a lot of golfers could prioritise that over the Games. This has caused a lot of resentment from some other sports, like squash for example, that have been trying to get into the Olympic programme for several years.
Will the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remove golf from future Olympics?
Far from it. The thrilling gold medal duel between eventual champion Justin Rose of Britain and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, which went till the last hole, is believed to have received much higher television ratins than a lot of other sports, according to the Guardian. Since television viewership is seen as one of the most important criteria for a sport to remain in the Olympics, golf continued to remain in the programme for the Paris Games in 2024. And given that Los Angeles will be hosting the event in 2028 — and the fact that golf is a huge draw in that part of the world — the sport is likely to stay on.
How is the response from the top golfers been like for the Tokyo Olympics?
So far, none of the top names have pulled out. In fact, McIlroy said he regretted not going to Rio and has expressed interest to represent Team GB this year. Tiger Woods, too, said competing in Tokyo would be a ‘once in a life time experience’. He, however, is not certain of a spot in the team yet as four Americans — Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay — hold the places reserved for Americans because of their higher ranking.
How do golfers qualify for the Olympics?
Qualifying for the Olympics began in July 2018, with golfers accumulating points in an official Olympics ranking that essentially mirrors the men’s and women’s World Rankings. The qualifying period runs through June 23, 2020 for the men and June 30, 2020 for the women. The total field will comprise 60 golfers and no country can have more than four golfers competing.
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