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Olympic Golf Preview: We're Back in the Games For First Time Since 1904

Rio 2016 Olympic Games Venues Construction in Progress

Golf in the Olympics. It’s here. It’s finally here. And I feel… well I don’t know how I feel about it yet. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. When golf’s return was made official in 2009 it was very exciting. The possibilities were endless. Tiger was no. 1 in the world and still considered a family man. The Ryder Cup was in American hands courtesy of Captain Azinger and the boys at Valhalla. So Olympic golf sounded a lot like the Ryder Cup on steroids. Like taking the sweetest event in the game, completely globalizing it and then dropping it right smack dab in the middle of the prestigious and rambunctious Olympic Games.

And then none of that happened. Not even close. Tiger is essentially dead. None of the players are playing. And the format is a snoozefest. Yes, the format stinks compared to what could have been — it’s just a regular 4-round, individual stroke play contest. Your run of the mill weekend Tour stop. Matt Kuchar didn’t even know that until last week:

My biggest gripe is indeed with the format. I’m planning on writing a much more detailed, ranting blog after the Olympics but for now, here’s how this happened. This from one of my trusted PGA Tour inside sources. Golf’s head honchos have been trying to return golf to the Olympics for a long time. In order to do so, you have to sell the IOC. The IOC sucks. They weren’t open to much unless the players were all in, and the players refused to be all in unless it was simply a 4-round, traditional, individual stroke play event. So eventually all sides arrived on the same page, golf was voted in and 7 years later boom, we have this huge-missed-opportunity-format in the Olympics.

(Ironic, because now none of the players are here)

Golf Previews - Olympics: Day 4

HOWEVER, this last week has gotten me fired up. Whatever they’re doing over at the Golf Channel is working. From the course to the setting to Rickie’s dumbass haircut, they’ve roped me in. While the event clearly isn’t the Masters, it’s slowly acquiring significance and even 2-time Masters winner (and fan favorite) Bubba Watson discussed what a medal would mean to him:

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The Track

Rio 2016 Olympic Games Venues Construction in Progress

The golf course is brand spanking new. Above is what it currently looks like. Below is what it used to look like (3 years ago).

Rio de Janeiro A Thousand Days Before The Olympics

There is no rough. There are no trees. It’s very similar to an Australian sand belt style course — linksy, but plays a little Americany too. There are heavy, seriously influential winds (Rickie actually stopped playing on Monday and just walked the back nine because the wind was so intense). We like that. Wind means disaster and we LOVE disaster.

Notable Holes

The finish is spectacular. Let’s take a look.

16th — Par 4, 303 yards

Rio 2016 Olympics Golf Course

Ahh, a drivable par 4. We love drivable par 4s. With the first golf Olympic gold in 112 years on the line, will be fun to watch guys pull driver and rip it at this green. Risk/reward to (from) a T.

17th — Par 3, 133 yards

Rio 2016 Olympics Golf Course

Short par 3. Another classic. Everyone loves the short par 3 and, even though it’s a wedge for the guys, never forget that Phil famously airmailed the short 121-yard 13th at Merion in 2013 to once again finish runner up in an Open. So nothing’s a given.

18th — Par 5, 571 yards

GettyImages-536861288

And we finish with a reachable par 5. There’s trouble everywhere, yes, but there’s also plenty of reward. Gil Hanse — the course designer who beat out Nicklaus, Norman and other huge names and even moved down to Rio during course construction — has said he wouldn’t be surprised to see someone in contention finish birdie, birdie, eagle. Love it, except I want birdie, birdie, double for total foreign heartbreak and complete American euphoria.

The Field

Golf Previews - Olympics: Day 4

USA! USA! USA! Although Spieth nor DJ are here, we’ve still got 4 Ryder Cup boys representing the red, white and blue. And that’s huge. Yes we want Olympic medals, but even more so we want these guys getting international competition and handling it well.

The favorite? This savage.

Golf Previews - Olympics: Day 3

The big Swede enters the Olympics coming off a T7 at the PGA and his record-setting breakthrough win at the British. In such a relatively weak field, he’ll almost certainly be in the mix come Sunday.

The rest? Well the field in general is very weak. It’s only 60 players and only 4 guys per country could qualify, so after about the first 25 we start to get into names we’ve never seen before. Some Japanese dude named Shingo Katayama is the 30th highest ranked player in the field for example (he’s actually a savage and rocks a cowboy hat).

2013 Panasonic Japan Open - Day 1

History

There is none. We haven’t been here since 1904 so… we’ll see. If there’s an electric finish this might become a thing. If not, golf might not even make it to Tokyo 2020.

Coverage

Golf Channel will be covering the golf everyday from 6:30 am until about 3 pm. So the usual suspects: Faldo. Nobilo. Rich Lerner with all his dramatic takes. Might even see a cool little (staged) Brandel v Nobilo fight. Can’t wait!

Predictions

Winner Score

No clue. Never seen the course. Supposed to be very windy but there’s no rough anywhere. It’s all fairways and waste areas, like restored Pinehurst No. 2. We’ll go out on a limb and say 14-under wins it.

Winner

Golf Previews - Olympics: Day 2

Richard Fowler. Yes, Mr Orange Flat Brim Puma Hat is going to take down the Olympics. Just something about him this week. He’s clearly cleaning up in Olympic Village and that’s given him a little pep to his step. With a Players victory under his belt Rickie’s poised for another big title. This is it. Rickie 14-under, book it.

DFL

S?t?e?v?e?n? ?B?o?w?d?i?t?c?h? Wen-Tang Lin. This guy is Taiwanese and stinks. Hasn’t won anything notable (to us) since beating out Rory on the Euro Tour in 2009. He’s gonna stumble his away around this Gil Hanse track to a nice DFL finish. Sorry, Wen-Tang.

King's Cup - Round Four

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is when you watch golf you want it to matter. You want it to matter to the players and you want those players to be big names. To be personalities you recognize. With this field and it being the Olympics, we’re staged perfectly for that to happen. There’s a lot of big names and a lot of random (shitty/no) names. And look, I don’t want Siddikur Rahman from Bangladesh to win. I really don’t. But if he’s in contention coming down the stretch it’ll be an electric story… and when he inevitably implodes for some millionaire American to swoop in and steal the glory, it’ll be that much better.

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Excitement level is high. Coverage starts early. Let’s do this. Go USA.