Olympic Golf Viewing Guide: Format, Favorites, Longshots

August 8, 2016


The International Olympic Committee has restricted the men’s and women’s fields to 60 players each, statistically making this one of the easiest events to win. Nations (like the U.S.) with more than four golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 15 may enter up to four players. Other countries may enter two players, provided they don’t already have two or more in the top 15. Players accrued World Golf Ranking points through July 11. Those chosen for the Games must be in good standing with their national associations and pass the Olympics’ more stringent drug-testing protocols.

MORE: Olympic Golf Tee Times


Don’t sweat the meaning of “dormie,” or even the difference between foursomes and four ball. And fear not the soul-crushing chorus of “Olé, olé” from the Euro contingent. None of that matters. If you can count, you can understand Olympic golf. As is the case on the PGA and LPGA tours, there will be no team component at the Summer Games. It’s just every wo/man for her/himself over 72 holes of stroke play. That said, there’s little doubt that the medal winners will be embraced as national heroes.


Canada is the defending champ, sort of, since the last Olympic golf gold medalist was Canadian George Lyon—in 1904. Graham DeLaet says he’s been daydreaming of these Games, and he’ll get his chance alongside countryman David Hearn. But perhaps the most impactful result would be a surprise win by India’s Anirban Lahiri, who tied for fifth at last year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and is fully capable of capturing the gold in Rio. That could touch off a golf boom in a country with 1.3 billion people—exactly what the powers that be had in mind when they reimagined Olympic golf.


The USA (with Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar) would seem to have the best odds of producing medal winners—maybe even a gold-silver-bronze sweep. But this is a tough tournament to predict. Will Justin Rose’s tender back heal in time to compete? Australia’s hopes are with Scott Hend and Marcus Fraser, England boasts Masters champion Danny Willett and Rose and resurgent Sergio García and Rafael Cabrera-Bello give Spain a fighting chance.


Finland’s Roope Kakko has big dreams and a small trophy room. He’s just the kind of golfer who could invite comparisons to Eddie the Eagle, the lovable, if hapless, English ski-jumper celebrated in a recent Disney film. So could Taiwan’s C.T. Pan, who also likely won’t win, place or show. Adilson da Silva, a 44-year-old Brazilian whose career highlight may be simply getting into three British Opens, is another distant presence on the OWGR list. Should the five-time winner of the Zimbabwean Order of Merit have a career week in Rio, he’ll set off an epic party to rival Carnival.