Bring your short game to Olympic golf, warns course chief
After months of legal wrangles sparked by green protests over the choice of a nature reserve to host the return of Olympic golf after 112 years, Rio Games golfers can now plot how to deal with a tough course.
Rio de Janeiro: After months of legal wrangles sparked by green protests over the choice of a nature reserve to host the return of Olympic golf after 112 years, Rio Games golfers can now plot how to deal with a tough course.
Rio already has two private courses, neither deemed suitable for the Games by the world golf authorities, which is why Rio opted to find 60 million reais ($20 million) of private cash to build a controversial though spectacular course at Barra de Tijuca, around an hour west of Rio.
Course superintendent Neil Cleverly, tasked with overseeing the grow-in phase ahead of a test event scheduled for November 26-29, told AFP on Wednesday the Gil Hanse-designed course was exciting and challenging.
And he indicated that there could be some surprises, identifying Rory Mcllroy and Lee Westwood as the kind of names who will look to show they can "bump and run" as Cleverly put it to pull out the top-drawer short game required to land a medal.
"It favors the short game. It`s going to be a challenging last three holes -- but every single hole has got a different measure of difficulty.
"There`s going to be some players who will shoot horrible numbers!" said Cleverly.
"Anyone who plays on the British shores (links courses), Ireland, Scotland especially -- those guys have got an advantage" on a course where they will have to negotiate easterly winds.
"To hold that green is going to be very difficult. You can drive it, but you can`t hold it," said Cleverly, who added Hanse had wanted a "firm, fast-running surface" which would benefit a good short game player.
"That`s what I`m going to give him. Just like a links course.
"This is a different animal. You`re going to have to bring a different bag of clubs to play this golf course," he added of a course modelled on a range of holes Hanse has personally experienced.
Cleverly said things would get very interesting on the final three.
"If you`re ahead by two shots and your nearest rival is level he`s going to go for it and you`re not -- if you do you`re very stupid."
Not since 1904 has the Olympics seen golf but after all the legal back-and-forth on the venue selection Rio will next year welcome a 72-hole contest for 60 men and 60 women.
The fields will be based on Olympic golf standings with a basic maximum of two players per nation, though that will incrase to four in the case of top 15 rankings.
The Games have grown exponentially since golf`s last appearance at Saint Louis in 1904, when George Lyon of Canada succeeded 1900 Paris Games US champion Charles Sands, while the women have not competed since Indian-born American Margaret Abbott secured gold in 1900.
With the main Olympic bywords now sustainability and legacy, Cleverly said that is what fired his ambitions as much as next year`s event.
"The great legacy of this golf course is that post Olympic Games it`s a public golf course, it belongs to the city.
"We want to produce a golf course for the city," said Cleverly.
"If we can teach the game to the juniors in Rio that would be my goal. This is what I want from this.
"There is no point in just putting a course there and then after the Games it goes to nothing.
"We want to produce a legacy for the juniors. If we can produce a Brazilian junior in 20 years and he becomes a champion then I`ll have succeeded," Cleverly concluded.