Olympic golf rules help NZ, but US not happy

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014
Danny Lee
Getty Images
KIWI GOLFER: Danny Lee.

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The qualification rules have been decided for the 2016 Olympics golf tournament and while they're being met with consternation in the United States, they suit New Zealand.

On current rankings, New Zealand would have two players in both the men's and women's competition, while the likes of current major titleholders Phil Mickelson and Jason Dufner would miss out.

International Golf Federation (IGF) officials this week confirmed the men's and women's tournaments would use rules that had been mooted for some time.

Both fields would be restricted to 60 players in the 72-hole, strokeplay tournament, but only two players from each country could play.

There will be a dispensation from that rule if players were inside the top 15 in the world and in that case, the top four players from a country would be eligible.

The current rankings would see Danny Lee (253) and Tim Wilkinson (257), representing New Zealand while Lydia Ko (2) would have company in the form of Auckland left-hander Cathryn Bristow (482).

The competition for men's spots will be one to watch in the next two years.

Behind Lee and Wilkinson is Michael Hendry (273), Mark Brown (286), Steven Alker (335), Gareth Paddison (420) and Ryan Fox (485).

On current rankings, the United States is the only country affected by the dispensation rule, though top players would still miss out.

Five-time major winner and current Open Championship holder Mickelson and 2010 women's US Open winner Paula Creamer would both miss trips to Rio.

Mickelson is ranked 13th in the world, but is the fifth top American behind Bubba Watson (4), Matt Kuchar (5), Tiger Woods (7), Jordan Spieth (10) and Jim Furyk (11).

Creamer is 12th in the world, but has four contrywomen ahead of her.

The rankings are something New Zealand Golf have kept a close eye on and boss Dean Murphy said on last week's figures the lowest ranked players in the respective fields would be Phillipines' Mia Piccio at 532 and Jhonattan Vegas, who was 478.

Qualifying via the IGF rules does not guarantee entry to the first official Olympic golf tournament in 112 years though. The New Zealand Olympic Committee would still need to ratify New Zealand Golf's nominations.

New Zealand Golf would need to prove their players have the ability to finish inside the top 16 at the Olympic tournament.

Murphy will argue players such as Wilkinson and Lee have this year finished inside the top 10 in PGA Tour events where the fields are of considerably better quality than the Olympic field looks like being.

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Ko will waltz through the nomination process, while a second Kiwi woman might find it tougher.

Murphy said having as many Kiwis as possible at the first golf tournament at the Olympics in 112 years would be good for the game here.

''It's been great for the game internationally already and given the sport a profile in countries where it didn't have it. It'll be great to be part of the Olympic family and great to have it on the telly here.''

- The Press

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