Gold medallists in the men’s and women’s Olympic golf tournaments at Rio 2016 will be given passes to the sport’s majors, it has been announced.
The news, revealed ahead of the 2016 Masters at Augusta National, due to begin on Thursday (April 7), provides a boost to golf’s return to the Olympic programme.
The winner of the men’s tournament will be guaranteed a place at the 2017 Masters, the US Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, The Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport and the US PGA Championship, due to be held at the Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina.
The women’s victor will be granted automatic entry to the five majors on the LPGA circuit, starting with this year’s Evian Championship in Évian-les-Bains, France, scheduled to take place from September 15 to 18.
They will also be handed exemptions to next year’s ANA Inspiration in California, the Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club in Illinois and the US Women’s Open, scheduled to be played at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.
It also covers the 2017 Women’s Open at Kingsbarns Golf Links in Scotland.
“We believe our game’s visibility will be dramatically elevated by the global platform that only the Olympics offer,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, President and chief executive when Atlanta organised the Olympics in 1996, said.
“New audiences from all over the world, some for the very first time ever, will be exposed to our great sport and come to know and appreciate the amazing athletes and heroes in golf.
“From this greater visibility, we believe will evolve greater participation in our game, and it will be a certain beneficiary.”
Though most of the top names already earn exemptions to the majors, through ranking points and by being a past winner, the development shows those behind the respective events have fully backed golf being an Olympic sport at Rio 2016 for the first time in 112 years.
The sport’s Olympic return has received mixed feedback from the players, with Adam Scott a leading critic.
The Australian, winner of the Masters in 2013, had claimed last year he may skip Rio 2016 in favour of time off due to the packed nature of the schedule.
World number two Jordan Spieth has an opposing view, however, as the American, a two-time major champion, described the Olympic golf tournament as “like a fifth major”.
“My experience has been when looking at the joy and the happiness of kids competing all across the board in various Olympic endeavours, that there is nothing, nothing, more powerful than representing your country,” said Payne.
“So I suspect that you will see that take over and totally capture the enthusiasm of the players for golf.
“I think what you feel now, and what you hear now, as some of these individuals themselves become part of the Olympics, probably change their mind.”
The top 15 men’s and women’s ranked players will earn an automatic place at this year’s Games, with a limit of four golfers from each country allowed in the field of 60.
- By Liam Morgan
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz