Olympic gold medallists to earn major exemptions


Gold medal winners in golf at the Olympic Games will receive automatic entry into major PGA and LPGA Tour tournaments, as confirmed by the sport's leading officials.

Winner of the men's event will earn an exemption for the Masters, US Open, The Open and U.S. PGA Championship in 2017, the women's champion will be exempt into this year's Evian Championship following the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the ANA Inspiration, Women's PGA Championship, US Women's Open and Women's British Open in 2017.

United States Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, Masters chairman Billy Hayne and PGA of America chief executive Pete Bevacqua held a news conference at Augusta National ahead of golf's return to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1904.

Golf's comeback to the Games in Rio will feature 60-player fields in a 72-hole stroke-play tournament, based on world rankings, with the top 15 automatically qualifying.

"We use the world rankings as a big part of who gets into the US Open Championship and the US Women's Open Championship and certainly you think that at the Olympics you're going to have hopefully most of the top-ranked players there," said Davis.

"But clearly, given the way that qualification system is to the Olympics, where countries are limited on how many players they can have, you could have some lower-ranked players, relatively speaking.

"So the idea is that if you're good enough to win that gold medal, and it happens only once every four years, we want you in our national championships."

Bevacqua added: "From our perspective, whether it's someone that is in the top rankings of the world or someone who is that Cinderella story, in both ways it's a positive.

"It's a positive for golf, it's a great story for golf and it's certainly a positive for the PGA Championship, regardless of who comes out of that field."

A statement from the LPGA read: "We are excited that the five women's major championships and the men's four major championships are aligned in celebrating golf's return to the Olympic Games by awarding Rio's gold medallists the honour of exempt status into upcoming major championship fields."