Olympics 2016June 3, 2016

Olympic Golf FAQ: Everything you need to know about The Games in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - FEBRUARY 02:  Aerial view of the golf course in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood with six months to go to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on February 2, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - FEBRUARY 02: Aerial view of the golf course in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood with six months to go to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on February 2, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Golf returns to the Olympics this summer after a 112-year absence. And naturally, golf fans have a bunch of questions about the event in Rio. We give our best to answer them here.

When is it?
The men’s competition runs from Aug. 11-14. The women’s event is the following week, Aug. 17-20. That was easy.

How do you qualify?
OK, here’s where it gets a little trickier. The International Golf Federation has an Olympic Ranking that gets updated every Monday and players have to be in the top 60 to qualify. The ranking is based off the Official World Golf Rankings for the men and the Rolex Ranking for the women. However, this does not simply mean that the top 60 players on each ranking get to go.

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Oh, no?
No. Each country is allowed a maximum of four players (Sorry, U.S. men and South Korean women), provided all four are in the top 15 of their respective rankings. After the top 15, a maximum of two players can qualify per country. Past the four spots in the top 15 or two after that, a golfer from the same country will not show up on the Olympic ranking. Finally, one of the 60 spots is reserved for a player from the host country, Brazil.

Doesn’t this mean a lot of good players won't qualify?
Yes! But isn’t including athletes from all around the world what the Olympics is all about? Besides, it’s like this in other Olympic sports. For instance, there’s a maximum of three figure skaters allowed per country, which has caused plenty of cutthroat competition in the U.S. Remember Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan?

OK. . . Well, when do you have until to qualify?
July 11, the week before the British Open.

Wait, the winner of the British Open might not qualify for the Olympics?
Correct! This could be awkward, but they had to cut off qualifying somewhere. And more likely, whoever wins the claret jug will have already qualified for Rio -- or will have already dropped out. . .

Wait, golfers are dropping out?
Unfortunately, yes. Adam Scott is the biggest name, but he’s been joined by Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh and Marc Leishman. Others like Rory McIlroy have hinted they could follow suit. The reasons given center around two things: a packed summer schedule and the Zika virus.

What’s the Zika virus?
We'll let this governmental site provide the details, but just know that it's spread by mosquitos -- and it's something you don't want to mess with.

What about on the women's side?
So far, this doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem with the women’s competition, and there's been a lot more talk about players fighting over the available spots. In fact, there was even a Tanya Hardingesque controversy involving Ha Na Jang’s father dropping a bag on In Gee Chun at an airport earlier this year. We’re not kidding.

Are any top male players excited about playing?
Of course! Bubba Watson said winning Olympic golf “would be a little bigger than a green jacket.” Jordan Spieth said, “Winning a gold would be, I believe, like winning a major championship.” And Jason Day said, “It’d be a really fantastic honor to win a gold medal, or any medal, in the Olympics.” That's the spirit!

Is golf here to stay as an Olympic sport?
Not necessarily. Golf is only guaranteed a spot in this year's Games as well as the 2020 Olympics in Japan. After that? Well, nothing is certain -- except the fact that big-name dropouts won’t help the cause. "If we don’t somehow change the narrative of getting people more excited about it . . . I’m worried," said Rory McIlroy. Of course, Rory is also worried about the Zika virus. . .

OK, so for those who go to Rio, what’s the format?
You know how every other week of the year you watch 72-hole stroke-play events? Well, this is going to be the same. Not exactly the most creative thinking, but on the bright side, it’s easy to remember.

You mean there’s no team competition?
Nope. It’s just everyone for themselves. Except they’re representing their countries and playing for medals instead of money.

So. . . then why are there team captains?
Good question. Gary Player is probably going to have a lot of free time on his hands.

Wait, does Rio even have a championship golf course?
It does now! Actually, there were already two 18-hole courses within the city's limits, but Gil Hanse designed the new Olympic Golf Course for this summer. There were some snags along the way, but it's now open and has been getting good reviews from those who have played it.

How much Olympic golf will I be able to watch? ALL OF IT. Golf Channel is going to cover both tournaments in their entirety. As in, you will be able to see every shot hit. Around The Rings also reports the final few holes will be shown on NBC and the bigger network will do live look-ins from time to time. This is great news for golf fans, not only because of the extensive coverage on NBC, Golf Channel, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app (130 hours live!), but because it will be covered like a typical golf event by golf people. NBC's Dan Hicks will be broadcasting swimming as usual, but there's a good chance we'll see Johnny Miller and the rest of the NBC golf gang in Rio. And Rio is only one hour ahead of EDT, so you can actually watch live!

That's great. Is there anything else I should know? Stuff takes time to develop prestige so don't be all negative about this event. It took tennis a little while to take hold in the Olympics, but now a gold medal is a big deal. It should be treated as such in golf, but even if it's not, the main purpose of having the game in the Summer Games is to spread the game to other parts of the world. It's about the game of golf, OK? Now sit back and enjoy. Unless you're going. Then you should probably pack a LOT of bug spray.


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