Playing for the Olympics is considered to be a major highlight in an athlete’s sports career and the game of golf is no exception to this.
With golf having returned back to the Olympics in 2016 after a 112-year of absence and once again be part of the upcoming Summer Games in Tokyo, the interest in golf as a competitive sport might get increased and renewed for ardent golf fans as well.
However, the COVID-19 situation has created a mess for the Olympics in general and has affected the athletes as well which might jeopardize the selection as a result.
What is golf all about?
With golf being a club-and-ball sport, various clubs are used to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in few strokes. It does not use a standardized playing area and there are varied terrains on different courses.
The game is usually played on a course with a progression of 18 holes although recreational courses can get smaller often with 9 holes. Each hole on the course must have a teeing ground to start from and a putting green containing the actual hole or cup 4.25 inches (11 cm) in diameter.
Although the green grass is the most common terrain there are other forms of as well such as the fairway, rough (long grass), bunkers (or "sand traps"), and various hazards such as water, rocks, etc. but each hole on a course has a specific layout and arrangement.
Golf is played in two ways i.e., a stroke-play where it is done for the lowest number of strokes by an individual or a match play with the lowest score on most individual holes in a complete round by an individual or team. Stroke play is a commonly seen format at all levels, especially at the elite one.
This game has its origins in 15th century Scotland. The 18-hole round game was created at the Old Course at St Andrews in 1764. The first major and the world's oldest tournament for golf in existence is The Open Championship, also known as the British Open was first played in 1860 at the Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire, Scotland. This is one of the four major championships in men's professional golf while the other three are played in the United States: The Masters, the U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship respectively.
Mary Queen of Scots was the first woman to play golf and it was during her reign that the golf course at St. Andrews was made. However, the first-ever golf tournament for women was held at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day in 1811. Since then, now both men and women can participate in golf tournaments.
Some of the renowned golf players making a mark in this field are Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Anirban Lahiri, Lydia Ho, and Kim Sei-young respectively.
How do Players qualify to Compete in Tokyo Olympics?
Qualifying for the Olympics is not a mean feat and is a rather difficult process. Despite this, many players succeed in doing so and win laurels for both themselves and the country they are from as well.
Different sports have different rules for players to qualify. In golf, for both men and women it is as follows:
Here, the top 15 players in the Olympic Golf Rankings (similar to the World Golf Ranking for men and the Rolex Rankings for women) will be eligible for the Olympics up to a maximum limit of four golfers per country. After this, the field will be filled to 60 golfers on the basis of these rankings with the top two ranked players qualifying from any country not having two or more players from the top 15. The host country is also guaranteed at least two golfers in the field.
Following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, on 29 April 2020, the International Golf Federation (IGF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced an adjustment to the qualifying system for the new dates of competition in 2021. Due to the delay of one and a half years, athletes would accumulate Olympic Golf Rankings (OGR) points during the period beginning from 1 July 2018 up to and including 21 June 2021 for the men’s OGR and 8 July 2018 up to and including 28 June 2021 for the women’s OGR respectively. The Olympic field gets restricted to 60 players for each of the men’s and women’s competitions.
Also like before, The IGF will utilize the official world golf rankings for creating the Olympic Golf Rankings as a method of determining eligibility in which the top-15 world-ranked players will be eligible for the Olympics, with a limit of four players from a particular country. Beyond the top 15 players, other players will be eligible based on the world rankings with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15.