Golf will return to the Olympic Games on Thursday morning after a 112-year absence amid a deluge of late-order positivity, despite the negative headlines that surrounded the build-up to the tournament.
In a stroke the 2016 US Masters champion put to bed the frenzy that surfaced when the world’s top four ranked male golfers pulled out of the Rio 2016 Games earlier this year.
The field gathered for the first men’s Olympic golf competition since 1904 features six major winners, including two of the 2016 champions (WILLETT and Open championHenrik STENSON, SWE) and seven of the world’s current top 15.
Such quality prompted Bubba WATSON (USA) to declare on Tuesday that “a medal of any colour” would be a “thrill of a lifetime” and would hang next to his two green jackets. The 2012 and 2014 US Masters champion is vying for top billing with world number five STENSON, who has finished in the top 10 in four of his last six tournaments, winning two of them.
With 33 national Olympic committees (NOCs) represented, including Bangladesh’s first ever professional golfer Siddikur RAHMAN, the sport has embraced the Olympic ideal. It has been a popular move.
“This has been the most fun I have had for a long time,” WILLETT said after the novel sensation of preparing to play golf for a medal.
Sergio GARCIA (ESP), who has won 11 European Tour events and nine on the PGA Tour, is another to have expressed his taste for a “return to amateur days” as many of the world’s best revel in life as Olympians.
The 60 entrants in the men’s event compete over four rounds of strokeplay, with no cut. The Gil HANSE (USA) designed test, built for the purpose, has received consistent praise. Open off the tee, the links-style set-up will be reliant on wind and its tight, tricky greens to bring the best out of the best.
“I’m expecting it to be a great success no matter what. I don’t see why it shouldn’t,” GARCIA said.