2016 Rio Olympics: Nine things to know as golf returns to the Summer Games
Golf in the Olympics has not been played in over 100 years, so we're going to catch you up with some pointers ahead of the four-day event
Seven years after it was announced that golf would return to the Olympics, the week of competition has finally arrived. Golfers are rolling into Rio de Janeiro this week for the 60-player tournament and seem to like what they see so far.
Nobody totally knows what to expect because nobody was alive the last time golf was played as an Olympic sport (more on that in a minute). The vibe seems to be more optimistic than in recent months when the fall of golf as a future Olympic sport was reportedly widespread and abundant (more on that in a minute as well).
Here we are though. We have tee times and pairings. We have a finished course (finally). We have three medals awaiting players on Sunday afternoon. It seems like it's going to be a genuinely good tournament as long as we get some big boy names atop the leaderboard on Saturday.
Let's take a look at nine things you should know about golf at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
1. The field is not strong ... As in it's roughly the same as the 2015 Sony Open. That is bad. That is really bad.
Notable recent 46-point wins in World Rank:— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) August 9, 2016
'15 Sony Open
'16 Irish Open https://t.co/kwr8gUhEQy
2. ... because six of the top 10 players in the world pulled out. They all cited various reasons, but here is the list of all the golfers who qualified for but eventually pulled out of Rio. You could probably have a higher-ranked tournament with the names on this list than you will this week at the Olympics.
3. Tickets are cheap. You can get a pass on the first three days for $15.75, which seems like a steal considering four of the 10 best players in the world will be there. You can't get into the John Deere Classic for that little. They do go up to $31.50 for the final round of both the men's and women's events, but that's still a steal to see the first gold medal since 1904.
4. Animals are taking over the course. The Rio course looks terrific, and several animals native to the area think so as well. From capybaras to these intense-looking owls, there will be quite a few external hazards to look out for when the first tee shots go in the air on Thursday.
Bernd Wiesberger saw some of those creatures on Tuesday.
5. Golf has been on a 112-year hiatus. The last time golf was played in the Olympics was in 1904 when the Games were in St. Louis. The gold medal winner that year literally walked on his hands after the competition to receive his prize. You should enjoy the gold medal ceremony this year as well as in 2020 in Japan, too, because we might be on another 112-year hiatus after those two Olympics.
The IOC will hold a vote after this year's Olympics whether to extend golf as a sport beyond 2020. I can't imagine with how many stars and superstars skipped out this time around that vote will go well. There will always be a reason to not go to the Olympics, and many golfers will exercise that reason because the Olympics are not the height of the sport. Majors are. They always will be.
6. What is the format? Some of the competitors don't know this, but it's a 60-player stroke play event. It's straightforward. Think of it like one of the final FedEx Cup Playoff events where there is no cut and low man wins. The IOC had a real opportunity to make this a legitimately exciting team event (fourball or foursomes), but instead they made it a glorified Sony Open with medals. That's pretty disappointing.
7. The opening tee shot will rock. Brazilian Adilson da Silva will strike the first tee shot this week in his home country. That's a thrill, of course, but he admitted he's quite nervous ahead of Thursday's round.
"But let's try to ignore that and try to concentrate on the shot," da Silva told PGATour.com. "It's a big fairway."
8. Team USA should get at least one medal. Four of the top eight favorites are Americans. Between Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed, at least one if not all of them should medal. You know they'll be gunning for it on Sunday too. Or at least Watson said he would be.
Bubba, asked if late-game strategy changes with medals at stake: "I'm gonna layup and go for bronze."— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) August 9, 2016
9. The golf course is pristine. It's a fair but tough Gil Hanse design. Much has been made over the last few years about the possibility of the course not being completed in time so kudos to Hanse for getting it done.
It looks sweet, too.
Fowler said on Tuesday that even par could win the golf tournament.
Rickie says if the wind blows hard even par will be a good score.— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) August 9, 2016
"Feedback is starting to come in, I'm hearing a lot of 'fun,' a lot of 'interesting,' a lot of 'variety,'" course architect Hanse told Golf Channel. "I don't know if anyone would come up to me and tell me they didn't like it. On Thursday morning I'll be shaking like a leaf."
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