MELBOURNE, Australia – Former British Open winner Ian Baker-Finch says the Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro has “come up nicely … grown in well” and that parts of the layout remind him of Royal Melbourne.
Baker-Finch, who will captain the Australian team in golf’s return to the Olympics, also said that despite earlier reports that Adam Scott wasn’t interested in playing, he expects the winner of the past two PGA Tour events to represent his country in August.
Nine Brazilians – five men and four women – played the Olympic course this week in a test event. The course is sandwiched between a sewage-polluted lagoon and luxury apartment towers in the western Rio neighbourhood known as Barra da Tijuca.
Baker-Finch says Scott and Jason Day are excited about playing there.
“Every time I see Jason Day, he says, ‘Finchy, I’m pumped, I’m pumped, I can’t wait’,” the 1991 British Open champion told Melbourne’s SEN radio station Thursday.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about Adam, the way he started off this year, but he says, ‘Finchy, I play in the green and gold every week, you know that’ . and he’ll be playing his butt of when the time comes.”
Baker-Finch, who also said Minjee Lee and Karrie Webb – the likely Australian women’s team – were “champing at the bit” for their Olympic chance, said he’d only heard good reviews from the course’s test event, which was attended by Australian Olympic chef de mission Kitty Chiller.
“It was more about 18 months ago when they were unsure how it was going to grow in and finish up, but it’s all come up really nicely,” Baker-Finch said Thursday.
“But now . the course looks good, I’ve seen lots of photos and videos. The clubhouse is done (and) practice facilities look good. The course has grown in well. The last six months, that was their main concern, and it certainly looks pretty nice, right now.”
Baker-Finch said architect Gil Hanse tried to incorporate some traditional, deep bunkering into the new course which adds a “little Royal Melbourne” feel.
“The course will stand up,” Baker-Finch said. “It’ll be new and the greens won’t be as good as we’re used to on the (Melbourne) sandbelt because of its age, but the course itself will be really good. It has a little links style, an open look to the course, some wetlands and lovely-looking bunkering.”
Derek Ingram, Canada’s Men’s Team coach, and Tristan Mullally, Canada’s Women’s Coach, also visited the course for the test event. Mullally was also impressed.
— Tristan Mullally (@tmullallygolf) March 8, 2016
Qualification will be based on world ranking as of July 11, 2016 with a total of 60 players qualifying in each of the men’s and women’s events. The top 15 players of each gender will qualify, with a limit of four golfers per country that can qualify this way. The remaining spots will go the highest-ranked players from countries that do not already have two golfers qualified.
If the team was decided today, David Hearn, Graham DeLaet, Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp would represent Canada.