I’m a huge sports fan. Baseball, basketball, football, soccer, golf… I’ll watch just about anything. Rudy Tomjanovich, once the head coach of my beloved Houston Rockets, is known mainly for two things in his career. During his playing career, he’s known for having his face rearranged in an on-court brawl by Kermit Washington. During his coaching career, he led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA Championships during the 1993-1994 and 1994-1995 seasons. After the second one of these championships, he is known for having famously quipped, “…don’t EVER underestimate the heart of a champion.”
Unfortunately, this author broke Rudy T’s rule. I completely underestimated the GOLDEN hearts of our US Olympic golfers. Consider this my formal apology. Mea culpa, USA.
Let’s Cut to the Chase: The Medalists
Both the men’s and women’s Olympic golf tournaments fielded some of the best golfers from all over the world. The grouping sheets read like a who’s who of the elite competitors. It really seemed like anyone could have won. However, when all was said and done, the US Olympic golfers really rose to the occasion.
On the men’s side, Xander Schauffele (USA) took home the Gold Medal with a score of 18 under par. Rory Sabbatini (Slovakia) won the Silver Medal with a score of 17 under par. C.T. Pan (Chinese Taipei) outlasted a field of seven competitors who went to a playoff – further just beating Collin Morikawa (USA) at the end – for the Bronze Medal, finishing with a score of 15 under par.
On the women’s side, Nelly Korda (USA) earned the Gold Medal with a score of 17 under par. The Silver and Bronze Medals were ultimately determined also by a playoff, as Mone Inami (Japan) and Lydia Ko (Australia) both finished the tournament at 16 under par. Mone Inami won the playoff and was awarded Silver and Lydia Ko the Bronze.
Now… About Those Predictions
You may recall that I went out on a few limbs a couple of weeks ago making some predictions about the Olympic golf tournaments. Bold though they were, I was ready to test my mettle as a professional sports prognosticator. Let’s see how things shook out.
Prediction Number One: Local Knowledge… SUCCESS
Alright. So I thought that a Japanese competitor would use their knowledge and comfort level as a home-court advantage, so to speak, and represent their country well. This outcome was realized with Mone Inami’s finish on the women’s side. By virtue of her getting into the Silver/Bronze playoff, she assured that this prediction would prove true. The fact is, though, that we could have seen TWO medalists from the host country. If not for a missed birdie putt on hole 17 and a missed par putt on hole 18 in the fourth round, Hideki Matsuyama would’ve won the men’s Bronze Medal outright, thus avoiding a playoff altogether. Alas, that would be revisionist history. One for one. Good start.
Prediction Number Two: Same Song, Second Verse… SUCCESS
Thank you, Lydia Ko. The 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist, Ko is one of the best golfers in the world. Fortunately, she proved me correct again in placing one-third of my faith in a repeat medalist in her. Two-for-two. On a roll.
Prediction Number Three: South Korean Women Show Up Big… FAILURE
Big-time failure, am I right? Both Jin Young Ko and Sei Young Kim had top 10 finishes (each tied for ninth). Unfortunately, their finishing score of 10 under par was seven shots behind Gold and six shots behind Silver and Bronze. Normally, a top 10 finish is a good thing. But when only three places receive medals at the Olympics, anything fourth or below just isn’t quite good enough. Two-for-three now. Pretty good, but not great.
Prediction Number Four: USA Falls Just Short… EPIC FAILURE
This is my apology. Again. I never should have doubted the firepower among the United States contingent. I’m sorry Xander, who turned the men’s tournament around in round two by shooting an impressive 8 under par 63. I’m sorry Nelly, who, despite the close finish, dominated the women’s tournament almost from beginning to end. So much so that in round two, she was on 59 watch before double-bogeying the 18th hole to finish the round at 9 under par 62. In fact, I’m also sorry to Collin Morikawa who came oh so close in the seven-man playoff that he almost followed his Open Championship victory with a Bronze Medal. That didn’t happen. But it could have. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t have faith in our men and women. But I’m damn proud they proved me wrong. So, two for four.
Four predictions. Two correct. That’s a 50 percent success rate. I guess, USA medals notwithstanding, I’m actually decent at this prediction thing (don’t forget that Morikawa Open Championship prediction I got right).
The Future of Olympic Golf
There have been mutterings around the sport that the format should be changed. Many offer suggestions. Should there be a team component? What would it look like with match play involved? Should the competition be modeled after the Ryder Cup? While much of this is infeasible due to the narrow two-week Olympic competition window every four years, I do believe that a team component would add intrigue to the competition. While I don’t know if the men’s and women’s tournaments should run concurrently, perhaps the opportunity for mixed team competition could excite the fan base and, moreover, the players themselves as they find they’re rooting just as hard for their fellow countrymen and countrywomen such that they can all stand on the podium together proudly representing their home country in front of fans the world over.
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