Out of the Rough: Golf in the Olympics, here we come
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In just under four years, golf returns to The Olympics for the first time in over a century.
Where exactly do we stand, four years in advance?
That's an interesting question.
Scheduling figures to be a nightmare. In fact, it already appears to be.
The International Golf Federation promised no major tournaments during the Olympics. Problem is, the PGA Championship is normally played during this time. The PGA of America graciously said it will move the PGA Championship to the last week of July.
The R&A considered moving up the Open Championship a week earlier in 2016 to accommodate the Olympics. The problem with that scenario is that Wimbledon has been pushed back a week starting in 2015, so the two would be played the same week.
Apparently the English like watching both.
That doesn't speak to how screwed up the Playoffs, Ryder Cup and some LPGA Tour events, including possible majors, could become.
If the schedule was the only potential road bump, we'd be fine.
Peter Dawson, the head of the IGF, also hinted that the format could change. When originally proposed to the International Olympic Committee, golf would be an individual tournament with 60-player fields based on the world rankings for both the men and the women.
Countries would have two representatives unless a country had more than two players in the top 15 of the world rankings and in that case, four players could represent a country.
So, if the Olympic qualifying ended this week, the U.S. would send Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner. There would be no Phil Mickelson.
It's impossible to forecast the world rankings four years in advance. As a point of reference, the American team four years ago would've been Tiger, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink and Steve Stricker.
There's nothing the IGF can do about which countries excel at golf. It does stink for competitive purposes that, for example, Mickelson won't be an Olympian, but the Argentinean squad of Andres Romero (ranked 112th) and Ricardo Gonzalez (No. 214) would be walking in the Opening Ceremonies.
The real change in the format could be in the move from a 72-hole, standard tournament, to something else. Could it be match play, or maybe a team format?
Knowing nothing about the politics of the IOC, but imagining they exist, it would probably be a tough sell to change the proposed format before the first tee goes into the ground in over 100 years.
Luckily, it seems enthusiasm is still high from the players.
Granted, Mr. Romero and Mr. Gonzalez might be in the field, but the main selling points from the IGF, to the IOC, the players, are on board.
"I hope I can qualify. I'll be -- four more years, I'll be 40 by then," Woods said before the start of The Open Championship. "It'll be something that I've never experienced, and I would love to be able to have a chance to represent my country in playing in the Olympic games."
Woods is on board, but he himself brings up a scary scenario.
Just a few weeks ago, Woods would've been on the outside looking in had these London Games already featured golf. With Mickelson in his mid 40s, the star power could be greatly dimmed by the time we hit Rio.
That's not even discussing the women.
The two biggest stars of this generation, Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, retired before the primes of their careers. Michelle Wie might be the highest- profile female golfer in the sport, and this year has been a disaster.
Again, if I knew what happened four years in the future, I'd be sitting in casino with a Captain and ginger thinking about how big to build the moat at my mansion.
There's nothing you can do about who will be there, or who won't be. The allure of golf in The Olympics will be the newness.
It could be cool watching Woods walk into the Opening Ceremonies wearing some silly hat, filming the crowds with whatever over-priced phone, he and I will both have, and with his arm around LeBron James.
And if Woods won, seeing him with a gold medal around his neck with the national anthem playing would be a moment.
But in between, it's just a golf tournament.
Contrary to what we've seen in recent history, I have total faith that the IGF and the IOC will have everything ironed out by the time of the Rio games. For now, it looks a little dicey (didn't mention a land-ownership issue where they hope to start building the course in the fall of this year), but again, there's nothing we can do about that.
But these worries over 1,000 days before they're needed, don't matter.
The Olympics are important for golf.
It's not important if Woods completes an Olympic Slam, but it's a spectacular opportunity to grow the game of golf.
It'll all get worked out and if you push some events back a few weeks in the fall of 2016, tell players to get sweaters.
If Tiger Woods misses the Olympics, then Matt Kuchar will represent the U.S. and people will still watch.
If the 854th-ranked player makes the Olympics and the 22nd-ranked player, doesn't, so what. That's the majesty of the Olympics.
And it will be part of the majesty of golf in four years.
- In the next nine weeks, we will have the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship, all four events of The Playoffs and the Ryder Cup. My point being, if you like the stars of golf, this is the time to watch.
- It's pretty amazing that we're starting the home-stretch of the golf season already.
- Fred Couples won the Senior Open Championship and seemed pretty excited by it. That's an excellent sign for the Champions Tour. The more the big-name stars buy in, especially for majors, the better off the tour will be. If you notice, the majority of players who begin their Champions Tour careers with wild notions of playing both the PGA and Champions Tour eventually settle on the Champions Tour. They love it and there's some help on the way in a year with Colin Montgomerie turning 50 next summer.
- Movie moment - So I saw "The Dark Knight Rises" and, it's Batman, so it's awesome. It's not as awesome as "The Dark Knight," but a local radio station posed the question, does this series rank in the top three in all-time trilogies? It's not "The Godfather," or "Star Wars," but it may headline the next group.
- TV moment - The Olympic coverage is taking a beating because it's not airing big events live. NBC is in a no-win situation and I blame Twitter. You can find out every result in real-time, but you still can't see it. NBC can't broadcast events live because it pays a gigillion dollars for the coverage so it wants to air swimming in prime time. NBC's business is to get viewers.