Major boost for golf ahead of its Olympic return
As golf prepares to make its long-awaited return to the Olympic programme, the athletes who will compete in Rio were given a major additional incentive, when it was revealed that the men’s and women’s gold medallists at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 will receive an automatic qualification for all of the major championships during the following year.
The men's Olympic champion in Rio will gain entry into the Masters, US Open, Open Championship and US PGA Championship in 2017, while the golfer who wins gold in the women’s competition will qualify automatically for the 2016 Evian Championship - which takes place directly after the Games – as well as the Women's PGA Championship, the US Women's Open and Women's British Open in 2017.The announcement came on 4 April and was made at Augusta National Golf Club in the USA, ahead of the Masters Tournament.
The idea is that if you're good enough to win that gold medal, and it only happens once every four years, we want you in our national championshipsMike Davis USA
Masters Chairman Billy Payne said: “We believe our game's visibility will be dramatically elevated by the global platform that only the Olympics offer.“New audiences from all over the world, some for the very first time ever, will be exposed to our great sport and come to know and appreciate the amazing athletes and heroes in golf. From this greater visibility, we believe will evolve greater participation in our game, and it will be a certain beneficiary.”
USGA executive director Mike Davis added: "We use the world rankings as a big part of who gets into the US Open Championship and the US Women's Open Championship and certainly you think that at the Olympics, you're going to have hopefully most of the top ranked players there.“The idea is that if you're good enough to win that gold medal, and it only happens once every four years, we want you in our national championships.”
European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley added: “We were fully supportive of the return of golf to the Olympics,” he noted. “It was a momentous decision for our sport and, therefore, to mark it in this fashion is entirely appropriate. We congratulate the Major Championship bodies in both the men’s and women’s games on creating such an eligibility category, a move which will add further glory for those players lucky enough to win gold in Rio de Janeiro in August.”