Lytham St Annes, England – Lost in the opening round of the British Open was an announcement from the All England Club that will make it even more difficult for golf to devise a busy summer schedule in an Olympic year.
Wimbledon will move back one week starting in 2015 to allow a three-week break after the French Open.
The British Open had considered moving back one week in 2016 in a summer that will be filled with two major championships, the Ryder Cup and golf's return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. To do that now would mean the Open would clash with Wimbledon, which wouldn't go over well in Britain.
“The Wimbledon date change does impact on this with regard to when it's most sensible to play the Open that particular year, so we are going to have to go slightly back to the drawing board on this,” said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A and the president of the International Golf Federation, which oversees Olympic golf.
Dawson said the IGF made a commitment to the International Olympic Committee that no major event would clash with the Olympics. The first step is to set the dates of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. If it were held in its normal time frame, it would clash with the U.S. PGA Championship.
The PGA of America, which stages the U.S. PGA Championship in the second week in August, already has offered to move up to the last week in July.
The Olympics will take up two weeks for golf – one week for the men, one week for the women. The U.S. LPGA Tour added a fifth major at the Evian Masters in France (which is held this week). The Women's British Open this year has moved to September.
Also to be considered is the FedEx Cup playoffs on the U.S. PGA Tour, which if held too late would push back the Ryder Cup outside Minneapolis.
The 2016 schedule isn't the only thing under review.
Dawson said the IGF planned to take another look at the format for when golf returns to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century. When it put together its proposal, the format was for 72 holes of stroke play, with medals awarded only to individuals.
“I think we all had this at the back of our mind at the start, 'Wouldn't it be nice to make the Olympic competition a little bit different, at least from the week in, week out competition?'“ Dawson said.
He believes that a standard 72-hole event of stroke play is the best way to determine a champion, though the idea of an element of match play, or a team competition, has been raised and “it's those areas we'll be having a look at.”
Dawson's personal opinion is to stick with stroke play, and the format is unlikely to change for 2016. Even if the IGF wanted to change the format, it would require approval from the IOC.
“Golf's bid was based on individual competition,” he said. “In order for that to be changed – and I'm not sure that it ought to be changed – but if it were to be, we'd have to get agreement from the IOC sports department.” – Sapa-AP