ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Only individual medals will be awarded next year when golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904. Whether a team competition is added for Tokyo in 2020 depends partly on the success of golf in Rio, and more on whether the IOC deems it worthy of adding golf medals.
Based on the Olympic Agenda, IOC president Thomas Bach said there can be no more than 320 events in 2020.
The hard part would seem to be the format for a team competition. The answer might have come in the Youth Olympic Games last year in China.
Consider this option.
The team competition would last two days and effectively kick off the Tokyo games by behind held on the first weekend. It would be mixed team consisting of one man and one woman. If qualifying ended today, 28 countries could participate in a 72-hole competition.
The first score would be from foursomes. The second score would be from fourballs. The final day would be singles, with each score counting.
That’s how it was at Nanjing last year, and it came down to the wire. Sweden wound up winning at 16-under 272, but only after a playoff against South Korea. There also was a playoff for the bronze between Italy and Denmark.
Based on current rankings, a team competition would feature Jordan Spieth and Stacy Lewis playing for the United States. They would compete against teams like Sweden (Anna Nordqvist and Henrik Stenson), Australia (Jason Day and Minjee Lee) and Spain (Sergio Garcia and Azahara Munoz).
The time is right for a proper competition of mixed teams in golf. The old JC Penney Classic at Innisbrook from two decades ago is outdated because of schedules and lack of interest from the men. The Battle at Bighorn was too silly.
The CVS Charity Classic, hosted by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade, has added LPGA Tour players for several years. There could be no greater stage for a mixed team event than the Olympics. But that starts with having room in the program.
AMATEUR HOUR: Maybe it should not have been so startling to see two amateurs — Paul Dunne and Jordan Niebrugge — among the top six going into the final round of the British Open. Yes, it was rare. But this year has been a strong example that the learning curve is shrinking.
A year ago, Matthew Fitzpatrick of England was the only amateur to make the cut in the U.S. Open. He finished 20 shots behind Martin Kaymer at Pinehurst No. 2. This year, six amateurs made the cut at Chambers Bay. Brian Campbell of Illinois was the low amateur, finishing 10 shots behind Jordan Spieth.
Last year at Hoylake, no amateur made the cut in the British Open. Five amateurs made the cut at St. Andrews, and two of them were serious contenders going into the final round. Ashley Chesters was also only six shots behind going into Monday, while British Amateur champion Romain Langasque of France was within four shots of the lead late in the third round until he faltered.
And on the day that Dunne became the first amateur in 44 years to be a 54-hole leader at a major championship (Jim Simons at Merion in the 1971 U.S. Open was the last one), don’t ignore what was going on back on the PGA Tour. Robby Shelton of Alabama was three shots behind going into the last round at the Barbasol Championship, and he wound up in a tie for third.
So maybe Spieth was right. An amateur winning a PGA Tour event — maybe even a major — might not be too far off.
UNIVERSAL TESTING: As the Olympics get closer, there are more calls for golf to become fully compliant with World Anti-Doping Agency standards. R&A chief Peter Dawson would like to see it happen after the 2016 games. IOC president Thomas Bach also believes it’s best for a level playing field across all tours.
Among the differences is that the PGA Tour only discloses the player found to have violated the policy and the length of his suspension. It does not say for which drug he has been banned. And recreational drugs fall under the tour’s conduct code. The tour releases no information on that discipline.
Only three players have been suspended under the anti-doping policy. The most recent was Scott Stallings, who told the tour he was unaware that an over-the-counter drug he was taking was on the banned substance list. Stalling received a three-month suspension. The other two (Bhavik Patel and Doug Barron) were out for one year. The tour did not explain the difference.
WADA president Craig Reedie said if nothing else, it would help that golf have one policy — not a tour policy that changes for the 13 weeks leading into the Olympics, when players are subjected to the Olympic code.
“I don’t think it’s a particularly good system that for 3
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