I understand. Golf is not for everyone. Just as some people consider baseball too slow for their viewing pleasure, golf suffers the same fate to an even greater extent. However, golfing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 put even the most diehard golf fans to sleep.
The men’s golf event is currently between its third and final rounds, with the women’s event scheduled to take place between Wednesday August 4 and Saturday August 7. Be honest with me for a second: how many of you can tell me who leads the men’s golf event after day three of competition? Obviously die-hard fans will find out. This question is not for them. This is for the casual fans who follow the big golf tournaments: the Masters, the Opens and the PGA Championship, and are aware of the big stories surrounding the PGA Tour in general. This is the crowd that the Olympic Committee had the task of trying to hold back with their tournament, so let’s see if they succeeded.
Without looking, who is in the lead after 54 holes? Alex ScHotele. He is the 5th world golfer. He’s not the biggest name involved – it would likely be Rory McIlroy who is currently tied for fifth. You could say Bryson DeChambeau and / or Jon Rahm are bigger names, but they had to pull out of the Olympics due to Complications of COVID-19. Maybe Morikawa, but he still hasn’t reached the same heights of fame that McIlroy reached earlier in his career.
This is not the point however. The point is, no one cares how many big names are involved. Good golf is good golf, and with 2021 being the sport’s second year at the Olympics, you’d think fans would be keen to see it on the world’s biggest stage. This was not the case however. The Olympics as a whole have took a hit, but golf has been particularly affected. So what could we have done to create more buzz around this tournament?
The Olympic Games draw is to be able to showcase talent from around the world in known and obscure sports. The Olympics are known to present these sports in a slightly different way than their fans are normally used to. Take basketball for example. While the game is essentially the same, there are minor rule changes, terrain adjustments, and arbitration standards that NBA fans are not used to seeing. It brings a different feel to the sport unique to the Olympics for American viewers. The Olympics don’t try to replicate the NBA, and that’s a good thing.
Olympic golf, on the other hand, as it is presented today, is trying to become an unofficial fifth major event played every four years without the buzz that makes major tournaments so exciting. It’s just another tournament played with the same format that we see every two weeks. I can’t blame the Olympics for trying this. Golf is steeped in tradition. The Olympics want to stand out, but not at the cost of being treated as a joke. That said, there is still a path that the Olympic Committee could have taken to maintain the traditions of golf while standing out from the big tournaments.
Let’s talk about match play – a much less common golf tournament format, but one that would suit the Olympics very well. Match play differs from stroke play in that scoring is based on individual holes rather than on each stroke. Basically, if Golfer A gets a par on a hole and Golfer B gets a triple bogey, Golfer B would only lose one instead of three. Match play also tends to cause golfers to take more risk, as they are only competing against a single competitor. If golfers A and B are both stretched to three, but golfer A is six feet from the hole, while golfer B is in the rough with obstacles obstructing the line to the pin, the golfer B will be more inclined to take a riskier hit to attempt to draw even on that hole. It’s a style of play that the Ryder Cup and Presidents’ Cup have embraced over the years that breaks with traditional scoring and is always a welcome breath of fresh air. In addition, the Ryder and Presidents’ Cups are generally presented as international tournaments where each player involved represents their country. Eh? It looks a lot like something that would be a perfect fit for the Olympics.
Rather than keeping golf as a purely individual event, match play could open up Olympic golf to becoming a team event in the same way as gymnastics. While we could still recognize individual players for their success, we could also recognize countries as a whole in a team sense, thus enveloping the tournament in a broader sense of patriotism.
There are obviously a few flaws in this format that should be addressed. For example, the Olympics currently field 60 golfers from around the world for their tournament. If the Olympics still wanted the chance to recognize individual golfers who performed well in a head-to-head style tournament, they would have to increase the field to 64 players and expand the tournament to take place over six days instead. than the normal four (So?). The Olympics could also reduce the number of players to 32 or 16 to make the event run for a more reasonable length of time, but that would then limit the scope of the sport as fewer of the game’s elites could attend. .
I’m not saying my plan would fix everything, but with golf’s weakness in audience ratings for these Olympics, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at different sports marketing strategies. All I’m saying is it would be fun, and it’s worth it. So, Paris, the ball is in your court (or in your green and robust har har). You have the opportunity to really shake things up at the 2024 Olympics. Stop trying to replicate the PGA Tour and be your own thing.