05/04/2016

The Olympics are coming to golf! Or should I say golf is coming to the Olympics?

Either way golf is back in the Summer Olympics rotation for the first time in 112 years. Many of the world’s best are heading to Brazil to tee it up at Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Golf Course this August for the chance to bring home a gold medal. The format will be a 72-hole stroke play tournament with a three-hole aggregate playoff to determine any medal tiebreakers.

The U.S. Men’s Team is shaping up to be particularly strong. Teams will be selected using the Official World Golf Ranking for the men, and the Women’s World Golf Rankings for the women. The top-15 in both will qualify with a limit of four players per country. Qualification ends on July 11 and the first round is tentatively scheduled to begin a month later on August 11.

The men’s team could feature FedEx Cup winner Jordan Spieth, Players Champion Rickie Fowler, 2-time Masters winner Bubba Watson and 2015 U.S. Open runner-up Dustin Johnson. Currently, no other country has more than two players in the top-15.

The U.S. Women’s team? Well….not as good. At least not right now.

Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis are both currently in the top-5, but that’s it.

Cristie Kerr and Gerina Piller are just outside the top-15, while Michelle Wie has slid all the way to 67th, less than two years after winning her first major at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. In fact, two years ago Team USA was looking in great shape with eight players (including Wie) in the top-15. Obviously there’s still time for Kerr, Piller, Brittany Lincicome and others to play their way in, so all hope is not lost.

The U.S. Women’s Open will be the last event before qualifying ends and that is certain to effect the look of teams all across the globe.

What countries besides the U.S. figure to contend for gold in Rio?

Certainly South Korea will be a major factor with eight players currently in the top-15 and six in the top-10. New Zealand has the world’s best in Lydia Ko, all of 19 years old and already a two-time major winner. China and Norway also have major champions currently sitting in the top-15.

Golf in the Olympics will be an historic event and it’s shaping up to be a very competitive one as well. Long gone are the days when the U.S. and a handful of other countries dominated the golfing landscape. Mexico, Taiwan, Fiji and Zimbabwe have all produced world number one talent in recent years on both the men and women’s side and this summer’s Olympics could serve as a launching point for the next wave of countries to make their mark on the game.

Either way, Olympic golf will be a welcome sight for fans of sport and world-class competition.