Golf Returns to the Summer Games

    The Olympic Games have captured the public’s imagination every four year since they first began in 1896 and every two years since the winter and summer began rotating a couple of decades ago. For a very long time, the games featured the world’s greatest amateur athletes.

    These original Olympic athletes were very much regular citizens, many of them working full-time jobs or living out their athletic dreams and training before finding a real job after their Olympic careers. Then, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) began allowing certain professional athletes to join in the fun. From the very first Olympic Dream Team, which featured the biggest NBA stars of the time, the Olympics have become more commercial and more professional.

    In 2009, the IOC determined that golf would return as an Olympic Sport. Golf had previously been contested in 1900 and 1904. The IOC established this summer’s 2016 games in Brazil as the venue for golf’s return.

    The United States dominated golf’s first go-around at the Olympics, producing the sport’s first gold medal winner, Charles Sands, in 1900. The U.S. men’s teams swept all three medals in the team competition in 1904. American women won all three medals in the 1904 games.

    Fast forward more than eleven decades and the U.S. looks set for success in this new iteration of Olympic golf. The selection process for this year’s Olympic golf will take the top 15 players in the world (according to the Official World Golf Rankings on July 11) with a limit of no more than 4 players from one country.

    The current world rankings include Jordan Spieth (#2), Bubba Watson (#4), Rickie Fowler (#5), Dustin Johnson (#8) and Patrick Reed (#12). These four Americans would make the U.S. Olympic team leaving Brandt Snedeker (#16) and Phil Mickelson (#17) on the sidelines.

    Golf’s unprecedented hectic schedule is already causing some of the world’s best players to skip the Olympics. Adam Scott (Australia) and Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) have already announced they will bypass the games. The Olympics follow a grueling stretch of golf that will include three major championships (The U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship) in just a six week span.

    Under the Olympic Committee’s rules, a maximum of four players can compete for any one country in the 2016 Olympic Games.

    The rules of Olympic Golf are fairly straightforward. Each country is allowed to bring a maximum of four players. The tournament will consist of four 18-hole rounds in a 72-hole stroke play tournament. In the event of a tie, the participants would enter a three-hole playoff, which would be followed by a sudden death format if the three additional holes don’t produce a winner. To the chagrin of many, the new games will not include a team competition.

    On the women’s side, South Korea and the United States look to be the top nations. For South Korea, which boasts about a dozen players in the top 25 world ratings, the toughest part may simply be making it to the Olympic Games.