Home > Blog > 2016 Olympics conundrum for Northern Ireland’s top golfers

2016 Olympics conundrum for Northern Ireland’s top golfers

August 13th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Photo by Lauren Teague

Golf returns to the Olympics in 2016, last appearing in 1904 where only two countries were represented (Canada and the USA). The International Golf Federation have proposed the following eligibility scheme to determine which of the world’s top golfers will challenge for Olympic medals in Rio:

The IGF is recommending an Olympic field of 60 players for each of the men’s and women’s competition, utilizing the official world golf rankings as a method of determining eligibility. The top 15 world-ranked players would be eligible for the Olympics, regardless of the number of players from a given country. Beyond the top 15, players would be eligible based on world ranking, with a maximum of two available players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

Currently golf’s top 15 male players are drawn from the USA (9), England (3), Northern Ireland (2) and Australia (1). It may look different in four years’ time, but wherever they are ranked, Northern Ireland’s top golfers will face a unique and delicate choice between TeamGB and Ireland. We might see pragmatism or friendship put before personal feelings of national identity.

To illustrate the complexities of the conundrum, I have derived a hypothetical line-up of golfing Olympians based on the world rankings at the time of writing. This would produce representation from 33 different countries. The USA would arrive with a very strong team of 9 players and if Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell both decide to play under the Union flag, they would join a pretty heavy-duty GB team of 5 players. Other countries would be limited to a maximum of 2 players.

McIlroy and McDowell could opt to play for Ireland – after all, the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) is an all-island governing body. It would probably come down to which national identity they are more comfortable with, which is how it should be.

Let’s say McIlroy and McDowell go for Team GB, Pádraig Harrington would then fill the first spot in our hypothetical Irish team. With no space left in TeamGB, Darren Clarke would have a delicate choice of joining Pádraig or stepping back and letting Shane Lowry go for Olympic glory. Would that be a tough call for Darren? What do you think?

What about Scottish independence? That would give Paul Lawrie (33) and Martin Laird (39) a chance to represent their country but would rule out the whole Norway team Espen Kofstad (255), and Robert-Jan Derksen (304) from the Netherlands.

Here’s the hypothetical 60-strong field for the men’s golfing Olympics

Country Player (ranking)
Argentina Andres Romero (102)
Angel Cabrera (233)
Australia Adam Scott (6)
Jason Day (25)
Austria Bernd Wiesberger (78)
Bangladesh Siddikur Rahman (181)
Belgium Nicolas Colsaerts (35)
Canada David Hearn (218)
Graham Delaet (238)
Chile Felipe Aguilar (221)
Colombia Camilo Villegas (169)
Denmark Thomas Bjorn (41)
Anders Hansen (59)
Fiji Vijay Singh (74)
France Raphael Jacquelin (118)
Victor Dubuisson (145)
GB Rory McIlroy (1)
Luke Donald (2)
Lee Westwood (4)
Justin Rose (7)
Graeme McDowell (13)
Germany Martin Kaymer (21)
Marcel Siem (60)
India Jeev Milkha Singh (85)
Anirban Lahiri (211)
Ireland Padraig Harrington (61)
Darren Clarke (95) or Shane Lowry (121)
Italy Francesco Molinari (24)
Matteo Manassero (77)
Japan Ryo Ishikawa (70)
Hiroyuki Fujita (80)
Netherlands Joost Luiten (93)
Robert-Jan Derksen (304)
New Zealand Danny Lee (206)
Norway Espen Kofstad (255)
Paraguay Fabrizio Zanotti (199)
Philippines Juvic Pagunsan (161)
Portugal Ricardo Santos (212)
South Africa Louis Oosthuizen (16)
Ernie Els (17)
South Korea K.J. Choi (38)
Bae Sang-moon (46)
Spain Sergio Garcia (29)
Rafael Cabrera Bello (45)
Sweden Peter Hanson (30)
Carl Pettersson (32)
Taiwan Lu Wei-chih (237)
Thailand Thongchai Jaidee (114)
Thaworn Wiratchant (138)
USA Tiger Woods (3)
Webb Simpson (5)
Bubba Watson (8)
Jason Dufner (9)
Steve Stricker (10)
Matt Kuchar (11)
Keegan Bradley (12)
Zach Johnson (14)
Hunter Mahan (15)
Venezuela Jhonattan Vegas (139)
Zimbabwe Brendon de Jonge (127)
Categories: Blog Tags: , ,