Gold medallists in this summer’s Olympics will receive a one-year exemption into the game’s major championships, officials from the sport’s top organisations have announced.
The men’s champion in Rio will be exempt into the Masters, US Open, Open Championship and US PGA Championship in 2017, while the women’s exemption begins with the 2016 Evian Championship — which takes place after the Games — and includes the ANA Inspiration, Women’s PGA Championship, US Women’s Open and Women’s British Open in 2017.
Masters chairman Billy Payne told a press conference at Augusta National: "We believe our game's visibility will be dramatically elevated by the global platform that only the Olympics offer.
“New audiences from all over the world, some for the very first time ever, will be exposed to our great sport and come to know and appreciate the amazing athletes and heroes in golf. From this greater visibility, we believe will evolve greater participation in our game, and it will be a certain beneficiary.”
While the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day would be exempt for the majors regardless of winning in Rio, officials believe the nature of Olympic qualifying could produce a winner from the 60-strong fields who would really benefit from the exemption.
Pete Bevacqua, the chief executive officer of the PGA of America, said: "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.”
USGA executive director Mike Davis added: "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.
“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 only happens once every four years, we want you in our national championships.”