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Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Olympic Golf

I'll do an Olympic Limerick Summary tomorrow. Today I just want to share a few thoughts I had about golf's first time in the Olympics.

Korean fans at the golf venue

When the men's event finished, I wrote that I thought it probably came out better than it would have if the top male players had actually shown up. My reasoning was that the top-ranked players had been somewhat off their form leading up to the Olympics and, had they shown up, they wouldn't have played up to expectations anyway.

By comparison, having the top female players on hand definitely made their event better. The ladies were mostly playing on form, and the results seemed typical of a regular LPGA event. The normally streaky players were streaky, most of the normally consistent players were right there at the end of the final round, and we got a few surprises in the mix as well.

The course initially appeared easy -- wide fairways and big greens -- but it proved that Gil Hanse and Amy Alcott had thought things out thoroughly. The layout of the course allowed the fickle winds to challenge players without being overly penal, while forcing players to think their way around the course in good weather. As a whole, good shots were rewarded while bad shots were punished, and new fans got to see lots of exciting shots, including hole-in-ones. That makes for great TV as well.

And of course, Brazil will now have its first municpal course, and it's one done by a big name architect and a golf legend. Win, win, win all-around.

Overall, I thought both golf events played out very well. And the huge crowds that showed up for both events should have given the Olympic Committee enough reason to keep golf in the Olympics past 2020. Golf's ability to deliver big, even without all of its big guns in attendance, was a tour de force that I'm not sure many other sports could have managed.

We got a really good cross-section of performers. No country was able to dominate the event. Medals went to Great Britain, Sweden, the USA, South Korea, New Zealand and China. An Australian set the men's course record and a Russian set the women's course record. A young Indian made a name for herself, as did players (both male and female) from Belgium and Thailand. The players interacted with the crowds as they always do. And there was a clear camaraderie between the golfers and the other Olympic athletes, as evidenced on social media. Could things have gone better?

As for media coverage, I felt that NBC's ability to use Golf Channel for full round, every round coverage gave the golf events a clear advantage over many of the other sports. And using Terry Gannon -- who, in addition to being a knowledgeable golf commentator, would also be known to non-golf viewers from his career as a basketball player and his coverage of other sports -- as the point man for both events was, in my opinion, a stroke of genius. Gannon is comfortable with everybody from players like Annika to athletes-turned-celebrities like Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.

All-in-all, I think we have to declare this experiment a success. The future of Olympic golf could open some very interesting chapters going forward.