Tournament: The Games of the XXXI Olympiad (duh), August 11-14, 2016
Course: Olympics Golf Course, 7,128 yards, par 71, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Purse: A gold medal, a silver medal, and a bronze medal. Duh #2
Defending Champion: George Lyon. If you don’t know the name, don’t worry. He’s been dead a long time. He won the last official Olympic golf competition in 1904. He’s also from Canada and supposedly was the inspiration of Bryan Adams’ "Summer of 69" which was his winning score.
Fun Fact: This is an individual event, not a team event. Regular stroke play similar to most PGA Tour events, but with no cut. Even as of last week, Georgia Tech graduate and US Olympic golfer Matt Kuchar was not aware of this. Probably because he used calculus. Oh, and maybe you'll see the ROUS's which live on the course.
Television: Thursday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Sunday, 6 a.m.-3 p.m. (GC).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (One-ish): Bubba Watson. Oh, and Patrick Reed if you’re into that kind of thing.
So they converted some environmentally sensitive South American wetlands into a golf course solely in order to host 120 tourists for a single tournament over 8 days. No, really they did. I’m sure they will find future uses for it such as hosting the Montreal baseball franchise or possibly a southern California football team. But the fact remains that Brazil doesn’t have many golf courses, and not many located near the rest of the Olympiad (at least of quality).
The course was constructed over the last 2-3 years by Americans (Gil Hanse and Amy Alcott), and was beset by weather issues, environmental protesters, and, wait for it…. charges of corruption. All that will be conveniently forgotten once we quit watching NBC media products for another four years.
Putting aside the quibbles, golf is back as an Olympic sport for the first time in over 100 years. The field is 60 players for the men’s competition, and 60 for the women. On the men's side, if a country has 4 players in the top 15 in the world, they can field 4 entrants. And that would be the United States. Most other countries only have 2 entrants. 6 of the world’s top 12 are entered, but the field is conspicuously missing 4 of the top 6: Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Rory McIlroy all declined to participate based on varying degrees of health concerns.
No matter, as we have world #6 Bubba Watson, UGA product, anchoring the US contingent. He will be joined by Rickie Fowler (3 time Tour winner, Okie St. Cowboy), Matt Kuchar (noted Ping Pong aficionado and Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket), and Patrick Reed. Patrick is… interesting. He was recruited by, enrolled at, and played for the University of Georgia. Then "All.The.Evil." happened, and he was asked to transfer by Coach Chris Haack. He did so, somehow without a restriction, and landed at Augusta State, where he contributed to back-to-back national championships (beating UGA in the process). He wears red and black every Sunday, and other days as well, is brash and cocky, but has enough game to back it up. Especially in team competitions.
I’ve written at length in other 'Dawgs on Tour posts on Reed, and while I don’t consider him one of "our" ‘Dawgs on Tour, I do like certain aspects of his game. And I will definitely be supporting him during the Olympics as he represents my country. Because my patriotism is usually only on display during team competitions such as Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Olympics, and World Cups.
There are some UGA ties for the US women's team as well. Stacy Lewis, former world #1 and 2-time major winner, played collegiately at Arkansas and was recruited and coached early by Kelly Richardson Hester. Hester (then Richardson) starred at UGA in the mid-1990's and eventually coached UGA 2007-2012 (also coached UNLV, Mercer, Furman and was just named coach at Clemson). The other two wearing the Stars & Stripes are Lexi Thompson, and Gerina Piller.
Whatever your flavor, tune in to watch the historic presentation of golf in the Olympic Games, and to root for Red & Black as well as Red, White & Blue. And as always….