Big Names Seek Design Contract for Brazil's Olympic Course

Several big-name golf architects have already thrown their hats into the ring for what's shaping up to be the marquee design project of the decade, the new course for Brazil's 2016 Summer Olympics.

During his Shark Shootout last week, Greg Norman added his name to the mix, which also includes two retired LPGA Tour superstars, Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam, as well as the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus.

The four icons are actually working in two working tandems: Norman and Ochoa, and Sorenstam and Nicklaus. Several other noteworthy, international bidders are expected to enter the fray, with the IOC making its final choice for an architect in mid-2011.

"I think there are seven others [making bids] at the moment," Norman said last week from Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla. "There might be more potential designers putting their hats in the ring."

In October 2009 in Copenhagen, the International Olympic Committee voted to reinstate golf as an Olympic sport for the 2016 Games. The event will feature professional players, many of whom stepped forward and assisted the various international golf associations in promoting golf's reinstatement. The last year golf was part of the Olympics was 1904.

The project near Rio de Janeiro figures to be huge as there's currently no golf-related infrastructure in place. Additionally, whichever group is selected will be integrally involved in promoting the venue as well as golf as an Olympic sport.

Norman believes he and Ochoa are up to the task. "In my mind, it's not just all about the design and the building of the golf course," the Great White Shark said. "It's actually - whoever wins or gets the nod to build this golf course - has to spend four or five years promoting the game of golf. I truly believe that. It's not just going out there and getting a design job, because it is a big step."

Norman said he and Ochoa have submitted preliminary application letters, a move also done by Nicklaus and Sorenstam. Though uncertain about the process, Norman said he expects the field of potential architects to be trimmed to three finalists, which would then submit Olympic RFPs (requests for proposals).

"They've got to make a decision here no later than August of next year, I would think," Norman said.

No site has been identified as the potential home for the Olympic golf course. Because of that uncertainty, Norman said he and Ochoa's proposal was based on a general philosophy of what they'd like to design and how they envision their involvement.

"I'm excited about it," Norman told Golf Channel's Randall Mell. "I've got work in Brazil right now. Lorena is excited about it. Obviously, her Spanish heritage and her connections down there are important as well. She loves the idea of being involved."