The PGA Tour scheduling the PGA Championship on the final weekend of the 2012 Summer Olympics had some symbolism.
As the London Olympic Games come to a close the world is reminded of a reason to get excited for 2016 in Rio: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and all of the world's top golfers. Golf will return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, and all the big names in the sport will represent their country.
Well, not exactly.
Under the proposed selection criteria by the International Golf Federation (IGF), 60 golfers will take the links in Rio. If the same rules applied to a 2012 Olympics golf competition, the 60 golfers would not be the most popular players in the world.
According to the IGF format, the top 15 players in the Official World Golf Rankings would automatically qualify for the 72-hole tournament. According to the rankings on July 29, 2012, if golf were to have been played at the 2012 Olympics, eight of the 15 automatic qualifiers would be Americans (Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker) and five would be British (Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell). Adam Scott of Australia and Ernie Els of South Africa would round out the top 15.
Then things get interesting. After the top 15 automatic qualifiers, the remaining 45 spots are taken from the World Golf Rankings. However, countries are only allowed a maximum of two representatives unless the nation has more than two players in the top 15.
In other words, the United States and Great Britain would be able to send their members of the top 15 and that would be it. Both delegations would have more than double the third-most represented nation, but some big names would still be left off the course.
Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, ranked 16 and 17, respectively, on July 29, would have just barely missed out on this year's Olympics. Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley and Jim Furyk, all Americans ranked in the to 35, would have also stayed on this side of the pond (so it's safe to say Bradley would have still won last weekend's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on a Furyk meltdown).
British standouts Ian Poulter, Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird, all members of the Official World Golf Rankings top 40, would have all missed out for the host nation.
The United States and Great Britain would not be the only countries missing some of their best. South Africa, with Els and 19th ranked Louis Oostuizen would block out 22nd ranked Charl Schwartzel. Down Under, Scott and 21st ranked Jason Day would deflect Geoff Ogilvy, No. 48 in the world, and Aaron Baddeley, No. 52 in the world.
South Africans Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini, Korean Y.E. Yang, Americans David Toms and Ben Curtis and Brits Paul Casey and Darren Clarke would be some of the other big names left off a theoretical London scorecard.
On the flip side, the world would get to meet some little-known faces for the first time. Americans do not tend to spend their Sundays watching 327th ranked Mardan Mamat of Singapore or 238th ranked Lu Wei-Chih of Taiwan, but if golf were an Olympic sport in 2012, these guys would be making the trip to London. Maybe they would get paired with Tiger and get a little face time on NBC.
According to about.com, the 2012 men's field would include representatives from 33 countries, while the 2012 women’s field would include 32 nations (Stacy Lewis, Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer would be the only Americans). The format would cause the women’s field to dig as deep as number 447 in the Rolex Rankings to tab Paola Moreno of Columbia as the 60th and final competitor.
As the world's best battled Kiawah Island for the PGA Championship crown last weekend, Rio 2016 may be far from their minds. Soon though, players will start to look at the Olympics format and realize qualification is not a gimmee. Only 60 players make the field and for those from the world’s most skilled countries, it is important to get into the world top 15. The IFC appears to be going more toward an international flavor in Rio, rather than a field based solely on skill.
There are no exemptions for a tournament win. Qualifying for the Olympics requires consistency and a little bit of help from the computers.
Oklahoma State Cowboy Rickie Fowler knows just how cruel the computers can be.
According to about.com, here is what the men’s field would have looked like in 2012 with Official World Golf Rankings as of July 29:
1. Luke Donald, Great Britain
2. Tiger Woods, USA
3. *Rory McIlroy, Great Britain
4. Lee Westwood, Great Britain
5. Webb Simpson, USA
6. Adam Scott, Australia
7. Bubba Watson, USA
8. Jason Dufner, USA
9. Matt Kuchar, USA
10. Justin Rose, Great Britain
11. *Graeme McDowell, Great Britain
12. Zach Johnson, USA
13. Hunter Mahan, USA
14. Steve Stricker, USA
15. Ernie Els, South Africa
18. Martin Kaymer, Germany
19. Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa
21. Jason Day, Australia
23. Francesco Molinari, Italy
25. Sergio Garcia, Spain
30. Peter Hanson, Sweden
33. Nicolas Colsaerts, Belgium
36. K.J. Choi, South Korea
39. Carl Pettersson, Sweden
40. Thomas Bjorn, Denmark
42. Sang-moon Bae, South Korea
43. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Spain
53. Anders Hansen, Denmark
59. Marcel Siem, Germany
62. Padraig Harrington, Ireland
68. Ryo Ishikawa, Japan
69. Matteo Manassero, Italy
73. Vijay Singh, Fji
76. Hiroyuki Fujita, Japan
78. Bernd Wiesberger, Austria
87. Jeev Milkha Singh, India
98. Joost Luiten, Netherlands
108. Thongchai Jaidee, Thailand
112. Andres Romero, Argentina
114. Raphael Jacquelin, France
119. Shane Lowry, Ireland
126. Brendon de Jonge, Zimbabwe
135. Jhonattan Vegas, Venezuela
136. Thaworn Wiratchant, Thailand
141. Victor Dubuisson, France
154. Juvic Pagunsan, Philippines
162. Camilo Villegas, Colombia
181. Siddikur Rahman, Bangladesh
198. Fabrizio Zanotti, Paraguay
201. Danny Lee, New Zealand
207. Anirban Lahiri, India
211. Ricardo Santos, Portugal
213. David Hearn, Canada
214. Ricardo Gonzalez, Argentina
220. Felipe Aguilar, Chile
237. Graham Delaet, Canada
238. Lu Wei-chih, Taiwan
277. Espen Kofstad, Norway
294. Robert-Jan Derksen, Netherlands
327. Mardan Mamat, Singapore
* Northern Ireland natives McIlroy and McDowell would have had the option to represent Great Britain or Ireland. If they were to represent Ireland, Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry would have lost their qualifications and the next two eligible players would be chosen in their place
See the women’s field here: