With golf’s long-awaited return to the Olympic Games a little more than four months away, the game’s leading organizations have added an incentive to those who qualify for the competitions in Rio de Janeiro.
The men’s and women’s gold medalists will earn exemptions into every major championship in 2017 (plus the women’s Evian Championship this fall), including the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. The announcement was made on Monday afternoon at Augusta National Golf Club by the leading golf organizations.
“Winning a gold medal and representing your country in an international competition is a high honor,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director. “To position the achievement of winning a gold medal above or below the status of a major championship does every competition a disservice. Our analysis of the competition makes us believe that an invitation to the gold medalist for one year is very appropriate.”
The silver and bronze medalists in the men’s competition will earn exemptions into sectional qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open, which will be contested at Erin Hills outside Milwaukee, Wis. Davis said, “The USGA has the unique opportunity, through its global qualifying process, to award the silver and bronze medalists a one-year exemption into sectional qualifying.”
The men’s and women’s golf competitions will each feature a field of 60 golfers competing in a 72-hole, stroke-play event. The men’s competition will be held Aug. 11-14 and the women’s competition from Aug. 17-20. A country may send a maximum of four players if they fall within the top 15 of the Official World Golf Ranking (men) or Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking. Beyond the top 15, a country may send a maximum of two players until the field of 60 is filled. Host country Brazil is guaranteed to have at least one golfer represented in each competition.
If the cutoff was today, the USA would be represented by reigning U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and 2015 U.S. Open runner-up Dustin Johnson on the men’s side, and Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and 2007 U.S. Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr in the women’s competition.
Golf was included in two Olympics: in the second modern Games in 1900 in Paris, which included men’s and women’s competitions, and in 1904 in St. Louis, where there were men’s individual and men’s team events. The Rio Games marks golf’s return after 112 years.