Golf at the Olympic games will take some adjustment. Not just for the fans and viewers, but the players themselves.
Brazil’s Adilson da Silva hit the first Olympic shot taken in 112 years early Thursday morning. His playing partner, Graham Dalaet of Canada hit the second.
Just a week before leaving for Rio de Janeiro, Matt Kuchar was unaware of the format. He believed it was a team event instead of individuals playing for medals.
“From my understanding, it was supposed to be Bubba (Watson) and Rickie (Fowler); they were the two highest-seeded Americans,” he said. Their combined score I thought was going to be the team part. There is no combination, no team at all? OK.”
Watson, a native of Bagdad, Fla., joined his teammates for a pre-tournament press conference. When asked if the players would take risks if the chance for a gold medal existed, Fowler said that he would.
On the other hand, Watson seemed to indicate he would be happy with a medal.
“I’m gonna lay up and go for bronze,” said Watson, eliciting laughter in the room. “What? Why is everybody laughing?”
He stood by his statement saying if he was in third place, he would not do something stupid to risk a medal while going for the big prize.
“You’re going to try to make sure you don’t mess up and go to fourth real fast,” he said.
Kuchar may not have been aware of the format, but he was clearly the Americans’ best player on the first day. He shot a two-under-par 69 to finish tied for 11th with pre-tournament co-favorite Martin Kaymer of Germany and five others.
The fourth American, Patrick Reed, shot a one-over 72, while Watson and Fowler each struggled with a four-over 75. The early leader was Australia’s Marcus Fraser, who fired an eight-under-par score of 63.
Delaet and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson came in at six under.
The world’s top four players stayed home. Top ranked Jason Day of Australia, Americans Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, as well as Ireland’s Rory McIlroy chose not to participate.
The Zika virus was a common concern. Stenson, ranked fifth, is the highest rated player in the field while Watson is number six.
Round two will be played Thursday.