Reliving the Olympic Success

Golf returned to the Olympics for the first time in over one hundred years and did not disappoint. I review how it went and how it can get better next time.

Thrash TalkIt seems from the ratings that I have seen that, like me, there were a lot of people watching the final round of golf for both the women and the men at the Rio Olympics. The ratings for the men were in fact, second only to the Masters. That is truly fantastic to hear.

Going into this Olympics, at least on the men’s side, you might think that we were set for a complete disaster. All but a few of the high profile names dropped out for multiple reasons. Pika, safety, or the real reason – just plain tired. I suspect all that didn’t play sort of wished they did. They will come out and say that they didn’t miss it, because they don’t want to look stupid, but the reality is they probably have a pit in their stomach for missing the first Olympics in over 100 years. I am talking about Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and yes I suspect even Rory McIlroy.

It was not only the golf they missed. The thing I suspect they all missed the most was being treated like an Olympic athlete. It seemed that all of the golfers really enjoyed going to other events and rooting their country on. Ricky at swimming events, Kucher at table tennis and regular tennis. They seemed by all accounts on social media to be having a blast mingling with the other Olympic athletes. I know this treatment is something that Tiger would have been over the moon to have gotten. I know that he longed to be considered a great athlete of our generation, which he is by the way, but he would have reveled in shaking hands with Michael Phelps or giving high fives to DeAndre Jordan while watching women’s beach volleyball. He would have been in heaven to be treated like an Olympic athlete.

In the next Olympics I suspect that the participation will be 100% baring injury. All that missed out know that they missed out on something big. Bigger than winning the most any tour stop, maybe still not bigger than a major, but still really big.

The course gave us three fantastic golfers, proof that it was a good design. Then turned around the following week and delivered the top women golfers. It showcased not only the most talented golfers there, but also some great nationality of golf in general. Great Britain, Sweden, and the USA for the men, and South Korea, New Zealand, and China for the women. What a great collection of countries who got to stand on the podium. One of the big shining stars of the event was how well the course did at identifying a top champion. You cannot say the course was unbalanced and gave us a goofy winner as can happen from time to time at major venues (I am looking at you, British Open).

Olympic Medals

So now the big question is where do we go from here? One of the big areas to look at will be the format. They need to determine if any changes need to be made there. There has been a large amount of discussion surrounding some kind of team event. The logistics of this are still very unclear, but I do agree that adding a team element could make the event even more exciting. I am not certain I love the idea of match play, but done right it might work. The current format with a straight 72 holes of golf made it seem like any other tournament with the new prize being a third place finish. Finishing fourth became the new second.

I also think that like the LPGA the PGA Tour should not host an event the same week as the Olympic event. The idea that Justin Rose picked up a gold medal and moved down in the FedEx Cup standings doesn’t make much sense. It will keep golfers who may be near the 125 cut line from playing in the Olympics and representing their country. This is mistake and will need to be corrected by the PGA Tour. If the belief is that golf in the Olympics helps to grow the game then that should be a premier event in the eyes of the PGA Tour and should allow all golfers to participate in the event rather than trying to keep their card or potentially drop in standings because they want to represent their country.

The next stop for golf in the Olympics is Tokyo. The Japanese love golf passionately so I will expect the crowds to be enormous. So the only ingredient the IOC will need to give any thought is the format. They can expect everyone to participate in 2020 because of how well received this years event was, and the crowds will be full of knowledgeable excited fans. There are many courses who can host the event so it will be a great spectacle.

Golf in the Olympics is here to stay. I think the event did so well this year that it will only grow in excitement each successive Olympics. It may even encroach to being on par with a major championship. Who knows.

Photo credits: © Getty Images

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