Well that was a relief, then, wasn’t it?
“What?” I hear you cry.
“That Olympic golf went so well, of course,” is the answer.
Let me nail my colours to the mast here – I would not have had golf in the Olympics. There’s something that doesn’t quite sit with me when there is a sport in the Olympics whose inclusion isn’t the absolute pinnacle of that sport. I think I’d have had the amateurs playing, not the pros.
In 2008 Andy Murray travelled directly from the US Open tennis to Beijing with no preparation and scant interest. How things have changed in the intervening dozen years. Perhaps the same will happen with golf – or to be more precise with men’s golf. Women’s golf is in a much more parlous state than the men’s game and the female players were astute enough to realise that the Olympic platform was ideal for them to showcase their skills. So they embraced the whole experience with virtually all the eligible top players in the world adding Rio to their schedules.
And our podium winners were heaven sent. The women’s gold medal was won by former world No 1 Inbee Park of South Korea, that powerhouse of women’s golf; the silver by current world No 1, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko; and the bronze by trailblazer Shanshan Feng of China, a country arguably poised to embrace the sport like no other nation. The men had their own thrilling finale with England’s Justin Rose edging Sweden’s Open Champion Henrik Stenson and America’s Matt Kuchar scooping bronze and proclaiming, “I’ve never been congratulated so much on a third place finish.”
Passionate as I am about golf, even I found the selected format of 72-hole strokeplay unutterably boring, providing interest only in the last nine holes of the final day. Forget cries of this format providing the best winner – that’s not necessarily true and it is hardly likely to capture the public’s imagination in the way other much more gladiatorial sports do. So, for what it’s worth here’s my humble offering on the format for Tokyo in 2020:-
- 32 countries each with six members, three men, three women
- 8 groups with 4 countries in each
- each country plays the other three in their group
- each match consists of 1 male singles game, 1 female singles, 1 mixed foursomes and 1 mixed fourball
- the winners of each group become the quarter finalists, seeding determining who plays whom
- straight knockout to determine the medallists
Of course there are lots of details to work out, not least the method of qualification for the countries and the difficulty of having a fourball format in amongst singles and foursomes matches. But surely it’s not beyond the brainpower of the powers-that-be to work that out? And we’d get to see our own nations competing against at least three other countries – much more compelling viewing than the turgid 72-hole format.
Also, who knows, perhaps the PGA Tour will decide not to schedule a regular tour event at the same time and instead show true commitment to the Olympic cause?