London Games raise excitement for golf's Olympic inclusion


Olympic golf, a largely theoretical concept for many fans that has focused on familiar formats and as-yet-un-built golf courses, will inch closer to reality today when the 2012 Games get underway in London. (Click for Olympics' topic page)

We can’t be the only ones who will be daydreaming during Friday’s Opening Ceremony about golf’s place in the 2016 Games in Rio, and this week’s Cut Line checks under the hood of golf’s Olympic movement.

Made Cut

A stroke of genius. There was plenty of talk last week about the format selected for golf in the ’16 Games, with Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews chief Peter Dawson suggesting that match play or a team competition may be a better fit for future Games.

Those who dismiss stroke play as a viable option, however, must not have been paying attention last Sunday. Adam Scott’s heartbreaking loss combined with Ernie Els’ 72nd-hole heroics at Lytham is all the argument one needs for stroke play.

Critics claim stroke play is a default format for deciding championships and therefore not a good fit for the Olympic Games, but Cut Line’s pretty sure the ancient Greeks never tried to reinvent the wheel.

Bunker mentality. In a preemptive move, the PGA of America declared all of South Carolina “through the green.” Actually, officials ruled that all sandy areas at Kiawah’s Ocean Course will play as waste areas, not bunkers, for next month’s PGA Championship.

This move is in contrast to the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits when all areas of the course were designated as bunkers. Officials say at Kiawah the sand is natural compared with Whistling Straits where . . . well, nothing is natural.

In an unrelated item Dustin Johnson just ruled all of Wisconsin unplayable.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Devilish details. When officials pitched golf for the 2016 Games, one of the initial concerns was how to fit two weeks of golf competition, one for the men and one for the women, into an already crowded summer dance card.

Officials assured Olympic organizers that none of the game’s major championships would conflict with the ’16 Games, and the PGA of America offered to move the PGA Championship to the last week of July to fulfill that promise.

Still to be determined, however, is when the Open Championship will be played and what impact the Games will have on that year’s Ryder Cup, FedEx Cup playoffs and women’s majors, which will include the Evian Masters in France.

On course. Perhaps the most concerning element for officials as the ’16 Games inch closer is an ongoing land dispute in Brazil for the property where architect Gil Hanse is scheduled to build golf’s 2016 Olympic venue.

Last week at Lytham, Dawson was asked about the property dispute and he sounded confident the course would be ready in time for a “test event” in 2015.

“Better progress to report from Rio than we had last time we met, and I'm confident that we're going forward,” Dawson said. “We're obviously keeping a close eye on it. It is Rio 2016's responsibility to provide the venue, not the International Golf Federation's. But we're involved.”

As one official familiar with the situation explained to Cut Line last week at Lytham, “These things work themselves out in their own special way. It’s just how things happen (in South America).”

Long view. In less than a year, long putters have gone from relative afterthoughts to public enemy No. 1 in golf circles, the byproduct of victories in three of the last four majors by players using longer-than-standard-length putters.

On this U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis was clear, no final decision has been made and golf’s rules-makers have been looking into long putters, specifically anchoring, long before Keegan Bradley (PGA), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (Open Championship) broke the Grand Slam mold.

“That has almost zero to do with it,” Davis said at Lytham. “I do mean that. If we did something, we talked about this fresh look long before any of these guys won majors. To say that we reacted because of the last few guys who won would be unfair.”

If the drumbeat against long putters seems louder given its recent record that’s understandable, but it’s been pounding for some time. Bradley, Simpson and Els only expedited that process.

Tweet of the week: @Steve_Flesch “For the record everyone, I don’t believe that a club should be allowed to be anchored. The ball has gotten away from the USGA.”

Tweet of the week II: @JasonDufner “I will gladly play with balata balls, persimmon heads, etc., just take the course back to 6,700-6,900 (yards). And 495 (yards) is a par 5!”

Missed Cut

Closed shops. There is little doubt that the world’s best athletes marching in Friday’s Opening Ceremony in London are second to none. That’s not always the case in golf.

Consider next week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which currently features a field of 77 players including Robert Allenby.

Allenby is currently 101st in the Official World Golf Ranking, 97th in FedEx Cup points and has missed (eight) almost as many cuts as he’s made (10) this season, and yet the Australian will have a spot in the limited-field, no-cut event via his status as a captain’s pick for last year’s Presidents Cup.

This is not a knock on Allenby, one of the game’s top ball-strikers, just a system that rewards potential not performance.