Olympic gold medalists to get invites to all majors
April 04, 2016
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- The world’s best will tee it up in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, in August for the Summer Olympics. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – In addition to the first Olympic gold medals issued in the sport of golf in 112 years, this year’s winners at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro will receive a few more prizes – invites to all majors in 2017.
The men’s winner will receive an invite to next year’s Masters, U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship. The women’s winner will receive invites to all five LPGA majors. Monday’s announcement was made at Augusta National.
No determination has yet been made on whether the men’s gold medal winner will receive a similar invite to THE PLAYERS Championship in 2017.
The PGA TOUR said in a statement released Monday: “We applaud the major championships in the men's and women's games in making this decision. From the very beginning, every organization in the game of golf, including the PGA TOUR, has been dedicated to making the Olympic golf competition a significant and important event in our sport. Creating an eligibility category into golf's major championships for the winner of the Olympic golf competitions demonstrates that commitment and is a very meaningful step in the continuation of that process.
“With respect to eligibility into The PLAYERS Championship for the winner of the men's Olympic golf competition, we have a different process than that of the major championships with respect to our regulations and eligibility categories and we will be initiating that process with our Policy Board and Players Advisory Council in the coming weeks.”
The representatives of the golf associations that run the majors said the added reward for winning the gold medal will help bring even more exposure to golf, which is making its return as an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904.
“I think it’s a great day for golf, certainly a great day for Olympic golf to be aligned to show the support of all these organizations,” said Pete Bevacqua, CEO of the PGA of America.
“We thought it would be important and timely to come together today in a total and unanimous support for Olympic golf,” added Augusta National chairman Billy Payne. “We believe our game’s visibility will be dramatically elevated by the global platform that only the Olympics offer.”
Mike Davis, CEO of the United States Golf Association, said that consideration was given to providing a similar reward for the silver and bronze medalists, but that ultimately it was decided only the gold medalists get the invites.
“The way I would probably put it, if you’re runner-up this week in the Masters, you’re runner-up in The Open Championship, you’re runner-up in the PGA Championship, that does not get you into the U.S. Open Championship,” Davis said. “I think that a win’s a win, and that’s how we do it.”
Even so, Davis did say the silver and bronze men’s medalists will receive exemptions through the first stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open. The men’s event, which has more than 10,000 players trying to qualify, has two stages of qualifying. Davis said the women’s event will not have a similar perk for the silver and bronze women’s medalists, since there is a smaller number of players (1,500) who attempt to qualify.
Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said his organization also looked at extending the invite for all four years until the next Olympics in 2020.
“We came down the side that the Olympics is a once-every-four year event,” Slumbers said, “and offering it for the following year is a worthy reflection of a great achievement.”
Sixty men and 60 women will qualify for the Olympics tournaments. Although the higher-ranked players will already be eligible for the majors, there will be competitors – particularly from the smaller golf-playing countries – who will not be eligible. That’s who will benefit the most from Monday’s announcement.
“From our perspective, whether it’s someone that is in the top rankings of the world or someone who is that Cinderella story, in both ways it’s a positive,” Bevacqua said.
Added Davis: “Clearly, given the way the qualification systems is to the Olympics, where countries are limited on how many players they can have, you could have some lower-ranked players, relatively speaking.
“The idea is that … if you’re good enough to win that gold medal, and it happens once every four years, we want you in our national championships.”
Here are the major invites that the two Olympic gold medalists will receive:
Men's gold medalist
Women's gold metalist 2017 Masters Tournament 2016 The Evian Championship 2017 U.S. Open 2017 ANA Inspiration 2017 The Open Championsip 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship 2017 PGA Championship 2017 U.S. Women’s Open 2017 RICOH Women’s British Open