The 2016 Olympics golf event was a stark reminder of why international golf is so important. Over the years, the PGA Tour has become the main resource for professional golf in the world, but it is certainly not the only one. We just need to look at some of the top PGA golfers to know this. Rory McIlory is from Ireland. Justin Rose—the Olympic gold medalist—is from England. Henrik Stenson is from Sweden. Jason Day is Australian. These golfers are all ranked in the top ten in the world, or have been listed there recently. The PGA is American-centric, and although international golfers are more than welcome to play, the bulk of tournaments take place in the United States.
The reality is that golf hasn’t appeared as an Olympic event since the 1904 Summer Games in St. Louis, MO. Its inclusion in the Rio de Janeiro is a big deal then; it’s been over 110 years since the last time golf was included at the biggest sporting event in the world. And yes, a lot of the same old names dominated like we’re used to seeing in the United States. Rose won the gold here, Henrik Stenson took silver, and Matt Kuchar took home the bronze. To PGA fans, none of these names are surprises. However, it’s important to note the other 57 competitors in the event. South Korea, Belgium, Chinese Taipei, Argentina, and Thailand all had strong presences in Men’s Golf in Rio. All of these countries would only rarely be mentioned in a PGA event, but all had golfers ranked in the top ten at Rio at some point during the four days of the event. This really stresses the international appeal that golf has, and it shows the potential that golf has to spread in popularity as a professional sport, too.
For now, the impact on fantasy golf seems to be minimal at an international level. Virtually no one in the U.S. would have drafted a golfer from Chinese Taipei on their team, but on day two, Pan Cheng-tsung was in a tie for 10th place, and had potential upset possibilities. If he had gone on to make up the six strokes that separated him from first over the final two days of competition, virtually every single fantasy golf roster would have been busted. An example like this really brings home the point that no matter how big of a golf fan you might be, the sport is so big that there’s no way you can cover all of your bases when it comes to knowing the best in the world. And as the sport grows in popularity, this is going to be even more difficult to do.
The PGA Tour is very selective about who can play and the standards are very high. These standards should not be diminished as it is the high standards for the game that make PGA events so exciting to watch. The point that should be taken away here is that although pro golf in the United States is very popular, it’s a sport with a worldwide reach, much like basketball, soccer, and baseball. There are other professional golf organizations out there besides the PGA, but they do not receive nearly the same amount of attention, even if a golfer is involved in more than one of them. This is very popular for Euro league golfers that also play in the PGA. If the Olympics teach us anything, it should be that sports are a worldwide expression of human achievement, and there are very few places that show this with the grace and athleticism that golf exemplifies.