Golf was added as a sporting code at the 2016 Olympic Games held in Rio. Many are hailing the golf as a success, but there are many who hold contrary views in this regard. Whilst some are touting that the Olympic Golf event should be added as golf’s 5th Major, I have some reservations in this regard.
Whilst it is only my opinion, I was not enamoured by what I saw. The hype around the Olympic Games as a whole has left many with a euphoric rose tinted view of the event. Justin Rose eventually secured the Gold medal and was well deserving of the title, but was this a field, format or course worthy of the honour of being called a Major? Well I think it falls well short.
— The R&A (@RandA) August 15, 2016
My biggest issue is with the qualification criteria and the format utilised for the event. In terms of qualification every country was able send 2 players although any players ranked in the Top 15 globally could participate. The USA was the only country to send 4 players, whereas all other countries only had 2 golfers representing them. In South Africa’s case Jaco van Zyl and Brandon Stone where representative players. Both fantastic golfers, but no one I have asked has chosen either as their first choice to fly the flag for South Africa. The names which cropped up were Charl Schwartzel, Brandon Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and George Coetzee. Even Ernie Els and Retief Goosen’s names were floated as possibilities.
As for the USA Team of Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, some notable absentees included Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson. Australia’s best golfers were also missing namely Jason Day and Adam Scott. If this event is to come anywhere close to qualifying as a potential major then surely the world’s best would want to be there. But they just didn’t want it. Sure the guys who did play have talked it up and why wouldn’t they. They want to make it a big deal, especially if they do well. It was unfortunately plainly obvious that a large portion of the world’s elite golfers decided early on that this was not a priority in their busy schedules. Some used the Zika Virus as an excuse, but I think for most this was a thinly veiled cover for their real reason for not participating. It just was not important.
Zach Johnson, the 2015 Open Champion, clearly stated in a recent press conference that he placed his participation in the Ryder Cup way above representing his country at the Olympics. I actually agree with his view. If you have ever watched a Ryder Cup, it is probably the most emotive Golf you will ever see. Steeped in history the crowds vociferously support their side and the format keeps it interesting from the very first blow. The format at the Olympics was a strange choice. For this of you who don’t know, they play 4 rounds of individual stroke play. There was no cut as in most tournaments, meaning that many players spent 2 to 3 days playing although being miles from contending for the top 3 spots. It should possibly have been done in a Team format of pairs from each country, as this may have given it an interesting angle.
One last point which is more of an education and organising glitch, but what was going on with the galleries? Clearly not your normal golfing etiquette educated gallery! Why you say? Well cell phones that kept ringing all the time, taking photos without putting phones on silent, picking up golf balls…need I say more?
So I think it was a nice try by the Olympics, but for me I would say that we gave it a try but it didn’t really work out. 5th Major? Well I think you know my feelings. I love this game of ours and support any efforts to introduce it to a wider audience, but I don’t think this version did the game a lot of justice, irrespective of how much positive spin people would like to put on it.