ZZZZ: Olympic Golf Format To Remain Same In 2020

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Great to see golf's leaders are still entrenched deep in their imagination black hole!

This is hardly surprising but it is a wonderful reminder that if golf can take the boring route, it will. Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com reports that players have been informed of 2020's Olympic golf plans and they look at lot like 2016's bland format.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

A Proper Obituary For America's First Women's Olympic Champion (Who Happened To Win In Golf)

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Thanks to all who sent in the New York Times special project to document and properly memorialize the lives of 15 women on International Women's Day.

The package kicks off with a remembrance of Margaret Abbott, America's first Olympic champion who happened to win at the Paris golf competition in 1900.

But even up to her death, Abbott was not aware that she is officially America's first female Olympic champ, writes Margalit Fox:

Though men’s and women’s golf appear to have been earmarked as Olympic events from the beginning, Welch said, few competitors seem to have realized the fact.
Abbott apparently thought that she was playing in a small, self-contained tournament, held at a course in Compiègne, some 50 miles north of Paris. She had entered it simply because she played golf and happened to be in France.
“They were calling it ‘Exposition Competition,’ ‘Paris World’s Fair Competition,’” Welch explained. “Because ‘Olympics’ wasn’t attached to it, she didn’t know.”

They're Playing Pro Golf At The Rio Olympic Course And It Looks A Lot Better Than Abandoned!

Declared abandoned, in disrepair, unsustainable and many other things thanks to its rustic appearance or lack of suitable activity in one opponent's eyes, the Rio Olympic golf course hosts the PGA Tour Latinoamerica this week.

The 64th playing of the Aberto do Brasil is the 13th of 18 PGA Tour Latinoamerica events and includes several intriguing players, including the world's top-ranked amateur last year, Joaquin Niemann.

The list of past champions includes Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Gary Player, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin Roberto De Vicenzo.

Players have been Tweeting, including these from Tee-k Kelly (thanks Jeremy Schilling for spotting):

They're still trying to drive near the 9th green and the condos are completed:

Aberto do Brasil 🇧🇷 #pgatourla

A post shared by Rodo Cazaubon (@rodocazaubon) on

 

And the wildlife is still sensational:

Paris & LA Olympic Golf Venues Bring Stability And...No Buzz

With the finalization of Paris for the 2024 Olympic Games and Los Angeles for 2028, Rex Hoggard writes at GolfChannel.com that the penciling in of proven tournament venues is a good thing.

While Rio was a unique success story, for vastly different reasons, consider the game’s best going head-to-head on a course in Versailles just minutes outside of Paris’ city center, or at Riviera, which is wedged between San Vicente Road and Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood (In a related note to 2028 athletes: traffic could be an issue).

It’s always the play on the field that makes a competition special, but having fields with established reputations and proven logistics can only enhance an event that exceeded many expectations in ’16.

While there is certainly something to be said for going to the home of annual European and PGA Tour events, there is also a case to be made that the Olympic golf will fizzle on the back of lackluster formats and been there-done that venues. Particularly if both courses host tour events the year of the Games.

Yes, Rio was difficult and caused headaches, there was a hoped-for payoff that showed the world a new venue with sustainability elements and wildlife diversity bringing added attention. To this day, some still don't get this, but for all of those point-missers there were many who saw golf in a fresh light.

With no venue cache for the next two golf events in the Games--three if the sport survives beyond 2024--tweaks to the format had better be really, really good.

Rio A Year Later And Golf's Place In The Games

Rex Hoggard filed a series of one-year-later GolfChannel.com stories and accompanying video report (below) on golf's Rio return. He looks at the state of the course, the increased funding in developing countries and the long term plans for the Rio course.

Some of the images of decaying venues are hard to see knowing that a year ago such joyful and memorable competitions were taking place, but it's a tribute to the new Rio course CEO Mario Galvo that Gil Hanse's creation is alive and well.

Here is Hoggard's story on the course, including this...

An Agence France-Presse report last November described a layout overgrown with natural vegetation and nearly devoid of players. But as the anniversary of that historic hand-over passes it appears the rumors of the layout’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

“The visions of an Olympic course that was going to be overgrown and left to waste didn’t occur. There seems to be a genuine desire to create white elephants when the Olympics are over,” says Mark Lawrie, the R&A’s director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

In April, when Lawrie returned to the Rio course, he found a much different reality. Although he admits the volume of play hasn’t been what officials hoped for, the course itself remains playable with conditions Galvão contends are better than what the world’s best competed on for medals a year ago.

This, for those inspired by Aditi Ashok's play last year in Rio, will serve as a statement backing what IGF organizers hoped would happen.

“Prior to golf coming back to the Olympics, there was very little that the [Indian Golf Union] got from the sports ministry in India,” said Dilip Thomas, the executive vice chairman of the Indian Golf Union. “Golf was also categorized as an elite sport and supposedly played by wealthy people. After the Olympics and following Aditi's performance in the early part of the event, the Indian government has started to look at golf through different eyes and now consider it to be a medal prospect for the country in the future.”

But if Ashok’s impact on golf in India, where an estimated 1 in 10,000 people play the game, was predictable, a year removed from Olympic golf’s return, it has resonated beyond the Rio leaderboard.

In underdeveloped golf countries the Olympics provided a unique opportunity to educate the public, which a recent International Golf Federation study suggests goes beyond the reach of even the game’s majors and other marquee events, as well as a chance to leverage the game’s newfound status as an Olympic sport.

The video piece with interviews from key figures a year later:

Rio A Year Later: Golf Is In Better Place And The Course Is Alive!

Exactly a year ago the Rio Olympic course opened to the first practice rounds while many of us were getting our first introduction to new smells and brutal takes on coffee. Golf's place in the Games was still very much in doubt and predictions suggested the entire thing was dead on arrival.

The Rose's, Stenson's, Fowler's, Watson's, Kuchar's, Reed's and others of the game showed up and had the times of their lives, followed by the Park's, Ko's, Juntanagarn's, Thompson's and Lewis's of the women's game putting on a similar great show one week later. The course was a huge success and to this day, is believed to be shuttered because some do not know what rustic golf looks like.

The course is very much still alive, despite the latest bizarre Tweet from the courses greatest hater (AP's Stephen Wade) that received pushback from the Mayor. On Instagram you can follow the latest from the course, including wildlife sightings and, less thrilling, images of the new cart fleet.

A year later golf is locked in through the 2024 Games and will be headed to established venues in Tokyo and Paris. However, should golf make it to the LA Games in 2028, it will be contested at private clubs for all three. The impact of such venues is bound to impact atmosphere and venue enthusiasm. But ultimately all of that will be ignored if the format is built around a great competition and the Olympic spirit instead of the schedules of players and tours. The IOC has signaled it wants bold and fresh formats, as evidenced by 3-on-3 basketball. Now it's golf's turn to pitch similar updates to classic formats in hopes of exciting a younger generation while giving us all reason to support Olympic golf.

 

 

We discussed today on Morning Drive...

Olympic Golf Is Coming To The USA In 2028, Maybe?

LA2024 reached an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to host the 2028 Olympic Games. Paris will host in 2024.

The bid committee's designated venue is Riviera Country Club, though golf is not guaranteed a spot in 2028 as of now. Last month, the IOC unexpectedly gave the sport its blessing through 2024.

The format going forward also remains unsettled and probably key to the sport's survival in Games that are rapidly moving toward shorter, tighter, edgier formats.

Furthermore, taking the Games to an ultra-private club with a mid-six-digit membership entry fee (if not more by 2028) will not be the best look for the game.

The 2028 message...

 

The Rio Effect: More Elite Golfers From More Countries

Bill Fields, reporting for ESPNW on the Olympic effect on women's golf notes both anecdotal and numerical evdence of note.

Reporting from the KPMG Women's PGA, Fields writes:

"Golf was a massive success in Rio, and we're continuing to support having golf on the platform because it is a global sport," said board member Angela Ruggiero, a four-time United States women's hockey Olympian who spoke Wednesday during the Women's Leadership Summit at the KPMG. "It has equal men and women in terms of [competitors]. So I think the IOC felt this is a no-brainer."

Ko called the news an "amazing step forward," given her positive experience in Brazil.

"It was just great to be in that vibe of being alongside some of the other best athletes in the world, not just in golf," Ko said. "You never really get to meet all these people in sailing or shot put. It the biggest range of sports."

Whan said he believes that the number of elite golfers from an increasing number of nations -- 45 countries were represented at 2016 LPGA Q School, compared to 26 in 2015 -- is rooted in part to the October 2009 announcement that golf was going to be played in the Olympics, which caused many countries to invest in the sport.

For all that we lament in the format, it's hard not to appreciate that kind of growth in golf diversity after just on Olympic Games appearance. Continuing the trend will require better star participation and a better format in 2020.

IOC Executive Board Approves Golf For 2024 Games

The IOC Executive Board charted the course for future Olympic Games by returning all sports played in Rio through 2024, which means golf gets extended beyond the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

From an Olympic.org report:

In another decision regarding the Olympic programme, the Executive Board approved the overall composition of the sports programme for the Olympic Games 2024 to include all 28 sports on the programme of the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

As for which city hosts in 2024, the IOC also officially committed to awarding the Games for 2024 and 2028 to the two remaining cities bidding on '24.

The race is between Paris and Los Angeles, with Paris the frontrunner for 2024. Le Golf National will host in France while Riviera Country Club is scheduled to host the golf in Los Angeles.

PGA Tour China In Limbo, Golf's China Hopes Dimming

Thanks to reader John for Wayne Ma's WSJ story on the latest blow to golf's China hopes.

PGA Tour China has struggled with the business practices of its China operations partner and has also been unable to get Chinese tournaments approved for its upcoming season, due to begin in May.

The game was banned by Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, and more recently nearly 200 golf courses have been closed amid President Xi Jinping’s campaign against corruption by government officials and ostentatious displays of wealth.

The PGA Tour came to China with high hopes, seeking to expand the game’s popularity and perhaps find a breakout star who could do for golf what Yao Ming did for basketball.

And there was this from Shanghai University professor Liu Dongfeng on China's Olympic aspirations likely not including golf.

Seeing the potential for economic returns, China is now moving to make sports more of a commercial enterprise, he said, phasing out the old system where a government office is paired with a quasi-government association.

Liu said soccer was the first sport to abolish its government office in 2015 and basketball appears to be next, with Yao this year becoming the first head of the China Basketball Association not drawn from government ranks.

“In terms of priority, golf is absolutely not on the agenda,” Liu said. “The prospect for golf is not very bright, unfortunately.”

Kasumigaseki Has Deadline To Take Women Members

Reading this unbylined AP story on the IOC setting a June deadline for the 2020 Olympic golf venue to change its membership policies, it feels like no matter what they do, the club will have a tough time overcoming the perception that they were forced into this change.

Quoting IOC Vice President John Coates...

"It's possible to go elsewhere but I think this is going to work," Coates said. "It's heading in the right direction for them to have a nondiscriminatory membership procedure. It would appear that we would have this result by the end of June."

The Real Rio Story Or Protest And Killings: Neil Cleverly Speaks

If you've been on social media you've probably seen Neil Cleverly's account of the "real" Rio he experienced as superintendent of the Olympic Golf Course.

Coupled with Stephen Wade's update on all of the Olympic venues in dilapidated shape, and it's amazing the course ever got built.

Regarding the protests outside the course, Cleverly says...

The protests started as a few and built up. The rumour was that a local politician didn’t like the developer so he was paying people – 100 real a day, which is about £25, to sit outside and throw abuse. That way you get people turning up, the most they could otherwise expect was £250 a month.

The sustainability ones were the most fanatical, they were saying we were killing animals, plants and removing indigenous plants and we weren’t doing any of that. The amount of times we invited them to see what we were doing– they never came in so we knew they were just there to cause trouble, they didn’t give a shit about the environment.

Rio Olympic Golf Course Off Of Life Support For Now

Given the shocking state of venues where just months ago the Olympics took place, it was great to read from Peter Dawson (via Rex Hoggard's GolfChannel.com story) that the Rio Olympic golf course has some new funding. Employees are getting paid again and maintenance is ongoing.

“Things are looking a little better, there’s a group of people who have come together that have a relationship with the land owner there, and they’ve re-engaged enough of the greens staff to keep the maintenance going,” said Peter Dawson, the former chief executive of the R&A and current

Hopefully this gets the course back into consideration for international amateur or professional events. Things look less promising for the swimming venue:

 

IOC Expresses Concern Over 2020 Olympic Golf Venue

The Guardian's Justin McCurry reports that while the IOC has "reportedly expressed concern" and has contacted the International Golf Federation over Kasumigaseki's male-only and no-Sunday play membership policy.

The club's GM told McCurry that they are prepared to review their policies if asked by the IOC. However, a non-profit launched last year to "modernize" the game in Japan is calling for the event to move.

The Japan Golf Council, a non-profit organisation launched last year with the aim of modernising the game, is lobbying to have the tournament moved from Kasumigaseki to Wakasu Golf Links, a public course near Tokyo Bay. Wakasu was initially proposed as the 2020 golf venue, but was replaced by Kasumigaseki in early 2013, several months before Tokyo was chosen to host the Games.

The council’s vice chair, Yutaka Morohoshi, said staging the golf competition at Kasumigaseki made no sense given its distance from Tokyo, and the availability of an alternative course that could be used by members of the public after the Olympics had ended.

“The Olympics is all about legacy, but we won’t have that if the golf tournament is played at a private club,” Morohoshi told the Guardian. “The ban on women at Kasumigaseki is certainly a problem. It runs contrary to what the IOC stands for in spirit.”

Established in 1990, Wakasu was designed by Ayako Okamoto and is 6881 yards with a tiny 20-stall, 200-yard deep driving range. Judging by the aerial, it's a fantastic location severely landlocked and design deficient to handle the competition.