Rio gold winners to get Major invitations

AUGUSTA • If winning Olympic gold at Rio de Janeiro in August is not enough incentive for men and women golfers, they will have the added reward of gaining exemptions to all of the Major golf tournaments in 2017.

Golf officials announced the news on Monday as practice got under way for the 80th US Masters, and will come as a boost to the Rio tournament.

Golf's return to the Olympics had not been met with universal acclaim among the players, especially over the issue of scheduling.

However, Masters chairman Billy Payne said that golf's visibility "will be dramatically elevated by the global platform that only the Olympics offer".

"New audiences from all over the world, some for the very first time ever, will be exposed to our great sport and come to know and appreciate the amazing athletes and heroes in golf," he said.

"So I'm very pleased to announce that the gold medal winner of the men's competition in the Olympic Games will receive an invitation to the following year's Masters tournament."

Similar statements were then made by the chief executive of the R&A, Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of The PGA of America, Pete Bevacqua and the chief executive of the United States Golf Association, Mike Davis. That covers exemptions for the Masters, and for the men's and women's US and British Opens and PGA Championships.

Additionally, Davis said, the Rio women's champion would be able to play in the two other women's Majors - the ANA Inspiration, from next year, and the Evian Championships.

"I think it's exciting that all the nine Majors have come together to support the Olympics," he said.

"I think we all realise what Olympics can do in growing the game."

Davis added that, for the US Open alone, the Rio silver and bronze medallists would be handed a place in the first of two qualifying stages for the tournament.

The Asian Tour also hailed the news yesterday. Over 10 male Asian golfers are currently poised to qualify for Rio.

Asian Tour commissioner Kyi Hla Han said in a statement: "The Asian Tour believes this decision will provide a boost for the development of the game around the world, particularly in Asia."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Rio gold winners to get Major invitations'. Print Edition | Subscribe