SYDNEY – Eight-time major winner Tom Watson says golf has no place at the Olympic Games.
Watson, who will play at the Australian Open this week for the first time since winning the tournament in 1984, told reporters Tuesday that he doesn’t support golf’s return to the Olympics, in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
“I still think of Olympics as track and field and not golf, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t want to pour cold water on it, but I don’t think it should be in the Olympic Games.”
Watson said golf has its four major championships, which remain its pinnacle events.
Golf was played at the Olympics in Paris in 1900 and St. Louis in 1904.
Watson supported the decision of golf officials to ban long-handle putters, but added he did so “with mixed emotions.” He said a broomstick stroke “is not a stroke of golf. That’s not a stroke, but it makes it easier to play.”
“My son Michael, with a conventional putting stroke, he couldn’t make it from 2 feet, but he went to a belly putter and he makes everything,” Watson said. “The game is fun for him now, so there lays the danger. Do we take the ability for people to have fun away?”
Three of the past five major winners have used long or belly putters, including South Africa’s Ernie Els, who capitalized on the collapse of Australian Adam Scott to win the Open Championship in July.
“I thought Ernie Els said it perfectly after he won the Open Championship,” Watson said. “He was asked ‘Why did you go with the long putter, Ernie?’ And he said, ‘I’m cheating like the rest of them are.’ “
Watson has been grouped with defending champion Greg Chalmers and young Australian Jake Higginbottom in the first round of the Australian Open at Sydney’s Lakes course starting Thursday.