Too early to outline bubble for 2016 Olympics

Keegan Bradley during the 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

Keegan Bradley during the 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

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Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Avondale, LA - TPC Louisiana

5:58:03 PM ET. 04/24/2014




PosNameTodayThruScore
T1Andrew Svoboda-8F-8
T1Ben Martin-811-8
3Peter Hanson-7F-7
T4Erik Compton-6F-6
T4Chad Collins-6F-6
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It’s fair game, of course, to speculate on what the men’s field will look like for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Heck, it’s probably even good banter.

But given that the starting point in determining the field will be the top 15 in the world rankings (it is expected that they will be automatic picks), it’s probably a futile exercise. There’s just too much volatility in the top 15 to crystal-ball it two years forward.

Let’s say we’re a little more than two years away from the cutoff to determine the 60-player field for Rio. Then check out what the top 15 presently looks like and compare it to the summer of 2011, and you get a good sense of how quickly things can change.

Of the top 15 in mid-2011, seven are presently on the outside of that magic number – including Nos. 1-2-3 (Luke Donald, 17th; Lee Westwood, 23rd; Martin Kaymer, 36th).

If the cutoff for Rio were this week, a whopping nine Americans would qualify:

  • Tiger Woods, No. 1;
  • Phil Mickelson, 4;
  • Matt Kuchar, 7;
  • Steve Stricker, 8;
  • Brandt Snedeker, 9;
  • Jason Dufner, 10;
  • Dustin Johnson, 13;
  • Zach Johnson, 14;
  • Jim Furyk, 15.

But Keegan Bradley (16th), Webb Simpson (20th), and Jordan Spieth (21st) would not be going. Countries would be limited to two players, unless they are top-15 players.

Then again, one year ago today, Bradley, Simpson, and Bubba Watson were inside the top 15, while Johnson, Johnson, and Kuchar were not.

But it’s the Great Britain-Ireland dilemma with Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy that is clearly the most intriguing angle to all of this. McDowell is playing for Ireland in this week’s World Cup in Australia. There, he said that he assumes that means he has to play for Ireland in 2016. But not so fast: That seems still up in the air.

If McDowell and McIlroy were to play for Great Britain, though, it would jam an already crowded squad. Again, using the current rankings, Justin Rose (5th), McIlroy (6th), Ian Poulter (11th), and McDowell (12th) could represent Great Britain, leaving Donald and Westwood home.

Ah, but just three months ago, Donald and Westwood were inside the top 15, while Poulter was not. So let the record show that projecting forward and guessing what the top 15 will look like at the cutoff for Rio is foolhardy.

Fun, but foolhardy.

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