As golf was preparing to make its return to the Olympic program last summer after a 112-year absence, there was pressure to make sure the men’s and women’s tournaments in Rio de Janeiro were a hit. After all, less than a year later, the International Olympic Committee would vote on golf’s fate past the 2020 Olympics, in which golf was guaranteed to be a part.
If the golf events went poorly, there was a legitimate fear that the Olympic golf experiment would end quickly and badly. As Zika virus fears spread among pro golfers — predominantly male golfers — and thinned the ranks of available players, the fears within golf’s C-suites amplified. This could be a failure.
As it turned out, Olympic golf was fantastic. The Rio course, designed by Gil Hanse, looked incredible on TV. The golf in both tournaments was compelling and dramatic. Justin Rose hung on to beat newly crowned Open champion Henrik Stenson, while Matt Kuchar celebrated the bronze medal like he’d won his first major. Inbee Park took out Lydia Ko in a remarkable, unexpected comeback from injury as Shanshan Feng took home the bronze for China.
Could the format be better? Sure. Could there have been more stars? Certainly. But golf walked away feeling like it had done enough to remain in the Olympic program.
Golf got that confirmation on Friday, when the IOC announced the sport would be in the Olympic program through at least 2024, when Paris or Los Angeles will host. If Paris wins, Le Golf National, host of the 2018 Ryder Cup, will get the tournaments. If L.A. wins, then Riviera Country Club takes the gig.
The 2020 Olympics will be in Tokyo.