Mixed Team competition could become reality at 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles

A proposal to include a 36-hole team competition at The Riviera Country Club was submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in January.

What if there were a mixed team event during the golf competition at the Paris Olympics? What if Scottie Scheffler and Nelly Korda – the two most dominant athletes in the game right now – could team up to represent the United States?

Such a monumental pairing won’t happen at Le Golf National in August because the Olympic golf competition currently consists of two individual stroke-play tournaments. But there is a very real possibility that a mixed team event could be added to the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.

A proposal to include a 36-hole team competition at The Riviera Country Club was submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in January. The event would feature 16 teams playing one round of foursomes (alternate shot) and one of four-ball (best ball). The teams would be selected from the 60 men and 60 women already qualified for individual play based on the Olympic Golf Ranking.

The mixed team event would be held on the Sunday and Monday between the men’s and women’s 72-hole individual tournaments. That would necessitate moving the men’s tournament to Wednesday-Saturday, but the women’s schedule would stay the same.

Antony Scanlon, the executive director of the International Golf Federation (IGF), said the LA 2028 organizing committee is fully supportive of the concept. The IGF, which consists of 151 member federations from 146 countries, is recognized by the IOC as the governing body for all things related to Olympic golf.

Scanlon said the IOC will be looking at the submissions from various sports for inclusion in the 2028 Games in the coming months. He expects to have continued conversations with IOC officials between now and the end of the year.

“At the beginning of next year, they should make the decision as to what events will be in the program for L.A.,” Scanlon said. “And we're hoping that the fact that there's no additional athletes and no additional resources required that the mixed event would be approved by them, especially given the support of the organizing committee.”

The actual qualification system for the teams doesn’t have to be submitted to the IOC until 2026. The field will be drawn from the top 16 countries that have a male and female athlete who, in consultation with their respective National Olympic Committee, wish to enter. At this point, it will likely only be one team per country to ensure the broadest possible representation.

Scanlon said IGF officials have canvassed the top male and female players in the world and there is solid support for a mixed team event. Count Justin Rose, who won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, among those who would like to see it.

“I'm all for that,” said Rose, who teamed with the LPGA’s Charley Hull to tie for ninth at last year’s Grant Thornton Invitational. “I think for me, one thing that I really feel strongly about is that the Olympics should represent the best players in the world and the best players in the world should be competing in the Olympics.

“I think that there should be an individual competition front and center for sure, but if there's a chance for a second medal … I'm so up for that as a different format or an additional format in the Olympics.

“Many sports have multiple disciplines that can accrue multiple medals. … Obviously the individual side, I think really proves who's the best player on that week. … But if there's a secondary opportunity, I think that'd be fantastic.”

Mike Tirico, who will host NBC’s primetime coverage of the Olympics for the fourth time in Paris, is a big proponent of including a mixed team event in the golf competition. The veteran broadcaster says the concept would be in line with the Olympics’ move toward adding mixed gender events like relays in swimming and track and field that started four years ago in Tokyo.

“They were wildly successful and popular and cool to see,” Tirico said. “Secondly, one of the big proud bullet points for the International Olympic Committee, and it should be, is that at this year's Olympics, the medal distribution is exactly even -- it's 50% female, 50% male. They've achieved great gender equality when it comes to the number of opportunities to win medals in the Olympic Games.”

An avid golfer, Tirico remembers the now defunct JC Penney Classic, a fall event that brought together two-person teams from the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour. More recently, he spoke with players like Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler and world No. 1 Nelly Korda and saw how excited they were to play in the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational last November.

“And for those of us who are golfers, we know those events are fun to see,” Tirico said. “ And if you get, gosh, one of the Kordas and Scottie Scheffler playing for Team USA -- first off, that's a hell of a ball striking combo, right? Korda and Scheffler would be in every fairway, right?

“But what fun, what fun that would be for fans of either tour to be watching together, the two best representing in the USA, whatever country it is. And from a global perspective with Ireland and Korea and England and all that, it would be awesome …

“I think if there's anything that could show growth of golf in the Olympics, this is right for it. It's right under the sport’s nose, and it's really easy to do because there are 60-person fields in each of the events. You can pull it off and I think it'll be a grand slam.”