Was reading a bit more today about the format and selection process for golf at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Top 60 men & women, individual strokeplay format. Full details on the International Olympic Committee website.
First of all it is of course great that golf is finally reappearing at the Olympics. It’s long overdue, more than 100 years overdue.
But does anyone else find it strange that the IOC and IGF have chosen to limit the field to 60 players and use the world golf rankings to determine the field? While I believe in merit-based approaches, to many the world golf rankings hugely lack transparency and are heavily weighted in favor of the players that compete on the PGA and LPGA. A number of pro tours around the world are even not considered in the world rankings, so how accurate is it really? Also why limit the field to 60? The Games stretch over a 2+ week period, plenty of time for full fields and proper 4 round tournaments.
Why not instead have regional qualifiers, similar to what is done for some other olympic sports? At minimum that would allow golfers from all countries an equal shot.
One of the Olympic ideals stated on their website is “development through sport”. Might it be time for the IOC itself to revisit that one and begin to live up to their own words. Its unlikely that countries will commit longterm to development in golf (support of the athletes, development of facilities, etc) if their athletes have literally zero chance of entry into the games.
Having been fortunate enough to have seen several events at the recent 2012 London games, I was amazed that in several of the most visible sports, like Beach Volleyball, the field was limited to teams from a very small group of countries, though the sport is played competitively throughout much of the world. In the case of Beach Volleyball, teams from fewer than 24 countries were included in the Olympic competition. In my opinion, that’s too exclusive especially when you consider that several countries had entered more than one team in the competition.
One of the the things I used to enjoy about the Olympics was that you would see competitors whom you would not ordinarily see. Often underdogs would emerge to win and new legends would be born. However the Olympics today seem to lean more and more on world ranking instead of qualifying, and therefore exclusion of countries and competitors who don’t compete regularly in major professional events.
Shouldn’t the Games revert a bit more to there roots? Wouldn’t it be great if 50 countries had competed in Beach Volleyball at the London Games? The format could have been adjusted to accommodate more. Do you think the final 24 would have been the same ? History suggests that there would have been some surprises. It certainly would have encouraged more growth in the sport.
Where’s the Team?
A team format is not on the Olympic agenda for Rio so far. Yet the most compelling golf events to watch (or compete in) are the team events – Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, European Nations Cup, Curtis Cup, just to name a few.
The atmosphere at team events in golf is virtually always electric. Actually I’m a bit surprised that they haven’t chosen a team format over an individual strokeplay format for this reason alone. It would be a great way to reintroduce the sport at the Games.
Each has been compelling and the team competition requires totally different mental challenges and usually different results than individual strokeplay. Imagine the drama if Team USA (Tiger & Phil) were eliminated by two lesser-known players from, gulp, New Zealand. Or if the Czech Republic (Klara Spilkova & Katerina Ruzickova) won against Korea (Ji-Yai Shin & Na Yeon Choi). You get the idea. Maybe you haven’t heard of the Czechs, but they are quality players. Those are the type of match ups that have made the Games the Games, flags waving, spectators watching.
Not all bad
I don’t want to be overly-critical. After all, it is great that golf is being reintroduced in Rio and lots of folks have an opinion on the subject.
However it is also a great opportunity to include more countries and encourage development in more sports. Golf has been trying to overcome an image of being an exclusive or even “elitist” sport. Excluding the majority of the world from the opportunity to compete will not help that image. The IOC and IGF should reconsider their approach, should include more countries, and therefore encourage growth and investment in the game.
Just my .02