Winston Churchill once famously described democracy as ‘the worst form of government except for all the others’. 72-hole strokeplay at the Olympics might fall into the same category.
While most in the golf community agree a mixed team event involving matchplay would make for much more interesting viewing, the truth is it would also be much more complex, particularly for the non-golf audience.
Easy as it is to imagine the excitement of Lexi Thompson and Justin Thomas going head-to-head in foursomes matchplay against Cam Smith and Hannah Green for the gold medal, the mechanics of getting there are less than ideal.
Firstly, under a mixed format not all countries would necessarily be able to qualify a team. The Netherlands, Morocco and Switzerland, for example, all had women qualify for Tokyo but no men. Zimbabwe had Scott Vincent but no women.
"Easy as it is to imagine the excitement of Lexi Thompson and Justin Thomas going head-to-head in foursomes matchplay against Cam Smith and Hannah Green for the gold medal, the mechanics of getting there are less than ideal." - Rod Morri.
It seems highly unfair that a player like Anne van Dam should miss out on the chance at an Olympic medal simply because no men from The Netherlands qualified.
Then there is the format of competition to identify the teams that would play for the medals.
Some form of round robin would be the obvious choice but risks both a lack of interest in the pool matches (see WGC Matchplay) as well as — again – being more complex for the non-golf audience.
Seeding teams might also pose a problem if women and men from the same country had wildly different world rankings.
Taking matchplay out of the equation, yet still aiming for a team concept makes things easier though also less interesting.
Some have suggested teams of four (two men and two women) playing strokeplay with the best three stroke scores to count each day.
While technically fulfilling the ‘team’ concept this format lacks the excitement of head-to-head competition and instead becomes an exercise in post round accounting.
Fourball best ball strokeplay would be an option but, again, is a more complex scoring system for the non-golf watchers to understand and is ultimately just another form of strokeplay anyway.
In an ideal world the Olympics would more resemble a Ryder or Solheim Cup than The Masters or Evian Championship and that is what many golfers long for.
But the realities of making that happen are far from simple leaving individual 72-hole stroke play events the most sensible way to decide the medals.
Like Churchill’s democracy, it is likely the worst format … except for all the others.