Golf was added to the Olympics this year for the first time since 1904. The qualifying rules are a little weird and the event is a 72-hole individual stroke play format making it seem just like any other tournament and not something special like it should be. While there are several players who are definitely excited for the event, there are many who see it as just another tournament in their already extremely busy schedule.
Vijay Singh, who would have qualified to represent Fiji, pulled out citing his busy schedule and worries over the Zika virus spreading through Brazil.
Adam Scott, the seventh-ranked player in the world and one of the two Australians guaranteed a spot also pulled out of the event citing his schedule as the reason.
“My decision has been taken as a result of an extremely busy playing schedule around the time of the Olympics and other commitments, both personal and professional,” Scott said.
Now another major winner, Louis Oosthuizen has also pulled out citing his busy schedule and family issues. Oosthuizen was also guaranteed a spot as one of the players for South Africa.
The recent decisions of top golfers to exclude the event from their schedules has many disappointed. After Scott withdrew, Jack Nicklaus told media at a charity event in Ohio, “I think that’s sad.”
Via: “I think that’s sad. I think it’s sad for the Olympics and for the game of golf,” Nicklaus said Wednesday at a charity event in Ohio related to his Memorial Tournament, according to Golf Digest. “I don’t know Adam’s circumstances, so I couldn’t comment on what he’s dealing with. Obviously, he felt like he couldn’t play, and if he felt that way, I understand. But it’s unfortunate.”
“What I’m concerned about is that golf has a little bit of momentum going right now,” said Nicklaus. “If the guys don’t want to participate, then we might not be in the Olympics after this. They vote next year. And if they vote to keep golf in, then that’s great, but if not then we lose that momentum with growing the game.”
Johnny Miller was more upfront about his feeling on Scott’s withdrawal.
Via: “Playing for your country is a lot bigger than playing for yourself,” Miller said, according to newspaper reports.
“I would say I don’t care how tired you are, and I wouldn’t even care where you place in the tournament, but you need to be there to represent your country.”
The outrage towards Scott continued with Australian swimming great Dawn Fraser:
Via: “Well done Adam great to put your country on hold so that you can fulfil your own schedule,” the triple Olympic 100m freestyle gold medallist wrote on her Facebook page, adding that she worked three jobs to realise her own Olympic ambitions.
“How much money do you want in life… I am still trying to survive at 78 years of age but a very proud Australian,” added Fraser.
I don’t agree with any of the opinions above. Yes golf has some momentum like Jack said, and has been growing around the world, but golf is new to the Olympics and winning a gold medal in golf is currently not the same as winning a gold medal in swimming. Sure it’s an honor to represent your country, but overall it isn’t as satisfying because it isn’t one of the top events in the sport.
There are four major tournaments that golfers strive to win every year, the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship, add in the fact that this is also a Ryder Cup year and most would tell you winning one of those tournaments is their career goal. An Olympic gold medal would be nice to have, but it isn’t a green jacket and doesn’t carry the same feeling of accomplishment. Could it at some point down the road? Possibly, but with the PGA Tour’s already busy schedule, the Olympics don’t exactly fit in well due to the time of year they are currently held.
This year in Rio, the Olympics were squeezed into the schedule by moving major tournaments around, mainly the PGA Championship, which is now just two weeks after The Open Championship. Three of the major golf tournaments are going to be held in a seven week span. Then there’s the FedExCup, with it’s $10 million dollar prize, which has become something else golfers on Tour are aiming to win. With all of those tournaments being the top prize in the sport, how anyone could be outraged that a person would skip the Olympics is a mystery.
As an athlete, don’t you want to win your sport’s highest honors?
For golf, a gold medal is not one of those honors at this time. It could be in the future if the IOC chooses to leave golf in the Olympics when they vote in 2017, but for now, golf just doesn’t quite fit in.