The Countdown to the 2016 Olympic Golf Tournament is On

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As of today, the countdown to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero is officially underway.  We are exactly one year away from the Opening Ceremonies to kick off the games, and with it comes the return of Olympic golf for the first time since 1904.

During the previous Olympic golf competition, a field of 77 players – 74 Americans and three Canadians – competed for a gold medal and the right to be called an Olympic Champion, and the eventual winner was good ol’ Canadian boy George S. Lyon.  #WeTheNorth, or something like that.

A lot has changed since that event was played some 111 years ago, and golf’s emergence as a global (although still somewhat elite) game has allowed it to return to the Olympics.  This year’s competition will be played as a 72-hole individual stroke play event (presumably without a cut) with a field capped to 60 players for both the men and women, although there are a few guidelines to ensure as many countries as possible will participate.

The entry list will be based on the Official World Golf Rankings as of July 11, 2016.  The top 15 players on each ranking will automatically earn spots, but no more than four players from one country can qualify (the anti-USA rule).  The rest of the field will be made up of the highest-ranked players that don’t have two golfers already qualified.  In other words, a country can have three or four golfers as long as they all are present in the top-15 as of the cut-off date; otherwise, each country is limited to a maximum of two.  Additionally, there’s a stipulation that at least one player from the host nation (Brazil) will get in.

In order to get a preview at what next year’s field for the men’s competition might look like, I selected the top-60 golfers based on the criteria listed above who would secure a spot in Rio if the Olympic cut-off date was right now:

*current World Ranking is in parentheses

 

ARGENTINA

Emiliano Grillo (96)

Angel Cabrera (137)

AUSTRALIA

Jason Day (4)

Adam Scott (11)

AUSTRIA

Bernd Weisberger (25)

BELGIUM

Nicolas Colsaerts (194)

Thomas Pieters (234)

BRAZIL

Lucas Lee (291)

Adilson da Silva (333)

CANADA

Graham DeLaet (91)

David Hearn (107)

CHILE

Felipe Aguilar (238)

Mark Tullo (334)

CHINA

Li Haotong (159)

Wu Ashun (162)

CHINESE TAIPEI 

Chan Shih-Chang (297)

COLOMBIA

Camilo Villegas (168)

DENMARK

Soren Kjeldsen (79)

Thomas Bjorn (109)

FRANCE

Victor Dubuisson (41)

Alexander Levy (65)

FIJI

Vijay Singh (219)

FINLAND

Mikko Illonen (106)

Roope Kakko (255)

GERMANY

Martin Kaymer (19)

Marcel Siem (105)

GREAT BRITAIN

Justin Rose (8)

Danny Willet (24)

INDIA

Anirban Lahiri (52)

S.S.P. Chawrasia (186)

ITALY

Francesco Molinari (42)

Edoardo Molinari (214)

IRELAND

Rory McIlroy (1)

Shane Lowry (48)

JAPAN

Hideki Matsuyama (15)

Hiroshi Iwata (100)

MEXICO

Carlos Ortiz (171)

NETHERLANDS

Joost Luiten (55)

NEW ZEALAND

Danny Lee (66)

Ryan Fox (135)

PARAGUAY

Fabrizio Zanotti (152)

PHILIPPINES 

Angelo Que (220)

Antonio Lascuna (266)

PORTUGAL

Ricardo Gouveia (161)

SINGAPORE

Marman Mamat (245)

SOUTH AFRICA

Louis Oosthuizen (13)

Branden Grace (28)

SOUTH KOREA

Byeong Hun An (58)

Sangmoon Bae (111)

SPAIN

Sergio Garcia (10)

Miguel Angel Jimenez (56)

SWEDEN

Henrik Stenson (9)

David Lingmerth (59)

THAILAND

Thongchai Jaidee (38)

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67)

UNITED STATES

Jordan Spieth (2)

Bubba Watson (3)

Rickie Fowler (5)

Jim Furyk (6)

ZIMBABWE

Brendon de Jonge (116)

 

Obviously, a lot can (and will) change over the course of the next year, but a lot of the golfers from the smaller countries are pretty much locks at this point.  A few other things to watch for:

– The U.S. will obviously have the most interesting battle, with 14 Americans currently in the top-23 of the rankings.  If I were a betting man, I’d expect to see Spieth, Rickie, D.J., and Bubba make it to Rio.  Sorry, Phil.

– Australia, South Africa, and Great Britain (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales) currently only have two players each in the top-15, but that will most likely change.  Aussie Marc Leishman, South Africa’s Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, and Tim Clark, and Great Britain’s Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, and Luke Donald all are within striking distance of a spot and have been near the top of the rankings before.

–  Rory McIlroy hails from Northern Ireland and is able to choose if he wants to compete for Ireland or Great Britain, and he has announced he’ll be wearing the Irish colours.  So to does Graeme McDowell, but he has yet to announce his intentions, although I expect him to follow Rory’s lead.

– A court has ruled that South Korea’s Sangmoon Bae needs to return home to fulfill his mandatory two years of military service, so his status for the Olympics is up in the air.  As it stands, Seungyul Noh (130) is next in line.

– Host Brazil is guaranteed to have at least one representative, but they managed to sneak in a second player thanks to the “max golfers per country” rule.  Don’t expect them to have two by this time next summer.

– Much like tennis, golf is an individual sport rich in tradition whose players value major titles more highly than an Olympic medal.  As a result, the 2016 PGA Tour schedule has been altered to ensure that all four majors will be played prior to the Olympics, which will hopefully encourage every top player to make the trip to Brazil.

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