Men’s Olympic Golf Review

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15 August 2015 (Pasadena, CA) 102 years later the men’s Rio Olympic golf draw has concluded with Great Britain’s Justin Rose taking the gold medal (I’m still trying to figure out when an English player is just an English player, Scot/Scottish, Welsh/Welsh?). Rose battled current Open Champion Henrik Stenson (silver medalist) on the final 18 in a duel quite similar to last month’s joust with with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon. Matt Kuchar of the United States posted a blistering 63, best of the final day, to take the bronze. So what have we learned after the men’s draw in anticipation of the ladies draw that begins Wednesday? Let’s start here…if you were to tell the IOC that two of the world’s most iconic golfers would be tied after 71 holes they would have taken that scenario in a minute. Not to mention that one of those golfers would be Henrik Stenson, who just played one of the greatest rounds in an Open Championship just a month a go, would be involved in that duel. This scenario was amplified by the final 3 holes in Rio which feature a driveable par 4, a 130 par 3, and a risk/reward par 5. And Rose and Stenson did their thing on these final 3 only to have the match decided on 18 with a birdie and three-putt bogey deciding the outcome. Secondly, the course held up well. Besides the low scores of the three medalists (numbers that would make most Major sites cringe), most of the world’s finest golfers were kept at bay. With a few tweaks, this course could become all the more interesting and challenging leaving this blogger thinking a trip to Rio might be in order. I was also struck by the panoramic views of Rio’s skyline and mountainous regions adjacent to the course. Thirdly, the Golf Channel did their usual outstanding pre-match and match coverage. Having the likes of Johnny Miller and David Feherty as part of their coverage team spiced the commentary up as these two are known to do. And it is exactly on this point, television coverage, that I begin my limited critique of golf at the games. In many ways, having the usual television coverage “bells and buzzers” normalized what should have felt altogether exceptional. Part of the blame should fall on the International Golf Federation for promoting a 72 hole stroke-play tourney with no team component. This could have been any other week on the PGA or European Tour. I would have also liked to have seen a few more player vignettes about some of the lesser knowns. Who are the competitors? What did they have to overcome to get here? With the exception of the medal ceremony and more national flags than I have seen at any other golf tournament, the IGF played it safe. And unfortunately, playing it safe left 95% of the competitors out of the excitement on Sunday. In their defense, however, maybe the conservative path was optimal for a sport trying to make its way back onto the Olympic circuit? I, on the other hand, would have liked to have seen a team component, ala the Ryder Cup AND a more international flavor in the broadcast booth. A few minutes of a call in Spanish, Chinese, Ukranian would have been great for kicks and signalling that this was no ordinary golf tournament. Take it from Matt Kuchar who after winning his bronze medal said, “I have never been so happy to take third place.” This is the Olympics and these are Olympians. This is special stuff.  In conclusion, a 102 year absence allows room for a few minor glitches upon return. For the most part, the men’s Olympic draw was a resounding success. I anticipate greatly, the women’s draw that begins on Wednesday. My suspicion is, it could be even better than what we witnessed with the men. Enjoy.

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