Editors' BlogOctober 13, 2009

Olympics: What format?

Our friend Justin Blair weighs in on the subject of golf in the Olympics, and especially on the question of what format will be used. As usual, he makes sense.

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Dear Editor,>

Call me a cynic, but I think I can understand why stroke play was decided upon as the official format for Olympic golf. The reason: Tiger Woods. While he has dominated in stroke play events, he hasn't been equally as dominant in Ryder Cup-like formats.

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Here's a quote from Steve DeMeglio (USA Today):

John Strawn, president of the course design firm Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates, expects the game's growth to continue for years. "The real impact here is that governments in China and India will now spend significant funds on the development of golfers, just as they spend on the development of gymnasts and field hockey players," he said. "In China, the creations of golf practice facilities alone--not to mention golf courses--will run into the billions of dollars."

Whatever happened to Dubai being the new promised land for golf?

Personally, I don't believe it's getting kids in Bolivia interested in golf to "grow the game" as it has been put. It's getting all these people in China and India interested. It's almost instant money! Which brings me to the reason why the Olympic format will be stroke play: What would happen if Tiger was bounced in the first or second round by some unknown, if it was match play or alternate shot? Would a non-gold by TW really have that much of a negative impact on the expected golf boom overseas?

Don't get me wrong. While I do sometimes suffer from "Tiger fatigue" he is the best thing to happen to golf in the last three decades (at least). It just seems too coincidental and convenient to have the run-of-the-mill stroke play format for something that's supposed to be special.

Justin Blair

Three Rivers, MI

The final format has not been decided, but that it will be stroke play. The money list will be a factor in qualifying for the event, which will award three medal prizes for men and thre for women, but there must be a way for other golfers to qualify. If not, as Mr. Blair argues, where is the grow-the-game benefit?

We tend to think only of the PGA Tour, however. As Golf Digest's Stina Sternberg has pointed, this is a huge opportunity for women's golf and especially for the LPGA tour.

Yes, it will be a "Tiger" event--and why wouldn't it--but there's a lot more going on with Olympics golf than that. There's also a lot yet to be decided about how we get there.

--Bob Carney

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