Do the world’s top golfers have an obligation to play in the Olympics?

Aerial view of the golf course with six months to go to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Do the world’s top golfers have an obligation to play in the Olympics?

Professional

Do the world’s top golfers have an obligation to play in the Olympics?

YES: Elite players have a chance to set course of golf’s history

By Alistair Tait

Peter Dawson took the diplomatic route upon receiving the news that Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen had withdrawn from the Olympic Games. Deep down, though, he must be extremely disappointed.

Dawson, the former R&A chief executive who is president of the International Golf Federation, also must be pondering two questions: Don’t these guys get it? Is playing in Rio really such a big ask?

He’s not alone.

“The IGF understands the challenges players face in terms of scheduling this summer, and it is regrettable to see a few leading players withdraw from this year’s games,” Dawson said in a statement. “The Olympics is the world’s greatest celebration of sport, and it is exciting and appropriate that golf features in its program again. Real history will be made at this year’s Olympic competitions, and it is our belief that the unique experience of competing will live forever with athletes that take part.”

Dawson worked hard to get golf back into the Olympics for the first time since 1904. He’s correct: It is a historic moment for the game.

Many of us agree that match play or a team format would have been more attractive than another moribund 72-hole stroke-play tournament. However, medal play was chosen because the IGF wanted to guarantee the best possible winner. The four major championships use 72-hole stroke play for that very reason.

The IGF had to play it safe because this Olympic Games is make or break for golf’s future in the competition. Golf also will be played in the 2020 Olympics, but the IOC will review golf’s future inclusion after Rio. So there’s no guarantee for 2024.

A world-class player such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Scott or Oosthuizen winning the gold medal would do more for golf’s future inclusion than a lesser name who won with the help of a good match-play draw.

Why is golf in the Olympics important? To help grow the game in nations with no tradition of golf. Talk to officials in Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and many other non-golfing nations, as I have done, and they’ll tell you that they can get funding for golf precisely because it has become an Olympic sport. They can start to develop their own Adam Scotts and Louis Oosthuizens.

Let’s look at scheduling and ask a simple question: Is playing Rio this summer such an onerous task?

The problems of fitting an Olympic tournament into an already tight schedule have been discussed ad nauseam. Here’s the reality: For Scott and Oosthuizen, we’re talking about a maximum of 10 events in a 17-week period, from the Memorial Tournament through the Tour Championship. That run also includes three majors, a WGC and the the four-tournament FedEx Cup series.

I’m not suggesting that Scott and Oosthuizen compromise their major-championship preparations for the sake of the Olympics. We all understand that these tournaments define a player’s career. But don’t tell me it’s a hardship to play 10 tournaments in the space of 17 weeks. And that’s only if they make it all the way to the Tour Championship.

If scheduling is so difficult, then drop the WGC event or the Memorial. Jack Nicklaus would understand. These events take place every season.

The bottom line, though, is that we’re talking about the Olympic Games. The world’s very first sporting spectacular.

Why would any golfer turn down the chance to compete for his or her country in the world’s oldest sporting competition? Why wouldn’t you jump at the chance to win an Olympic gold medal, especially when the chances of winning are far better than winning any of the four majors? Remember, they have to beat only 59 other players in the Olympics.

Not many fans are going to remember who won the 2016 Memorial or the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational or even a FedEx Cup playoff tournament. Most will remember who won gold in Rio.

NO: Olympic golf fails to resonate among game’s elite male players

By Jim McCabe

What a pretentious lot we’ve become, sitting back and judging how others should live their lives and set their priorities. We even tell them what they are “obliged” to do.
Based on what? Our values and interests?

We decide the Olympics are a big deal, so that’s it. You have to think they are, too.
Please.

Most of us can’t fathom what it is to be an elite athlete, nor do we comprehend the time and sacrifice that most of them undoubtedly have made and continue to make to remain there. These athletes are motivated by whatever is the pinnacle of their sport. What likely has inspired male golfers are dreams of a Claret Jug, green jacket, national open or PGA title.

Swimmer Michael Phelps has only one athletic avenue to pursue: the Olympics. Similarly, to skiers and track stars and gymnasts and figure skaters, an Olympic medal is the ultimate.

Unlike them, the golfer never has had the Olympics dangled in front of him. Now that it is, some aren’t that overwhelmed. Some see the bigger prizes they want and know how they need to prepare for them, given that their windows of opportunity are not opened forever. The Olympics simply don’t register as a priority.

That’s their prerogative. It’s not our place to question them, yet we do. But why?

Why is it so hard to accept that some athletes never have been wired for the Olympics and don’t see the big deal? Tennis icon Pete Sampras played in ’92 and was so unimpressed that he skipped the ’96 and 2000 Games. You remember him for that, or for winning 14 Grand Slam singles titles?

(Apparently, cities and nations share Sampras’ sentiments. The 2022 Winter Games attracted only two host bids, after Norway, Poland, Germany and Switzerland said no to even bidding. Boston citizens came to their senses and squashed a possible 2020 summer bid.)

Why is it so hard to accept that not every sport has to be in the Olympics? Men’s soccer allows only under-23s to play in the Olympics, and soccer fans are OK with that because it is the World Cup that matters. MLB wouldn’t let its stars play in 2000-04-08, which is why the sport mercifully was asked to leave. Hockey works only because the NHL — with NBC exercising great leverage — shuts down for two-plus weeks every four years so its stars can play.

You think the PGA Tour, R&A and USGA would shut down for three weeks every fourth summer to accommodate a proper Olympic golf tournament? Hey, they’re in, but not that in.

Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen have exercised prudent decisions by opting not to compete this summer in Rio de Janeiro. Direct your criticism not at them; instead, hope that the International Olympic Committee and golf officials devise a format for 2020 by which 40 two-man teams or 30 three-man teams truly make it about “playing for your country.”

Instead, we get this year’s equivalent of a fifth World Golf Championships event: a heavy-at-the-top, very-week-at-the-bottom 60-man field.

There’s no medal for that plan.

Alistair Tait and Jim McCabe share their opinion about the world’s top golfers having an obligation to play in the Olympics.

YES: Elite players have a chance to set course of golf’s history

By Alistair Tait

Peter Dawson took the diplomatic route upon receiving the news that Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen had withdrawn from the Olympic Games. Deep down, though, he must be extremely disappointed.

Dawson, the former R&A chief executive who is president of the International Golf Federation, also must be pondering two questions: Don’t these guys get it? Is playing in Rio really such a big ask?

He’s not alone.

“The IGF understands the challenges players face in terms of scheduling this summer, and it is regrettable to see a few leading players withdraw from this year’s games,” Dawson said in a statement. “The Olympics is the world’s greatest celebration of sport, and it is exciting and appropriate that golf features in its program again. Real history will be made at this year’s Olympic competitions, and it is our belief that the unique experience of competing will live forever with athletes that take part.”

Dawson worked hard to get golf back into the Olympics for the first time since 1904. He’s correct: It is a historic moment for the game.

Many of us agree that match play or a team format would have been more attractive than another moribund 72-hole stroke-play tournament. However, medal play was chosen because the IGF wanted to guarantee the best possible winner. The four major championships use 72-hole stroke play for that very reason.

The IGF had to play it safe because this Olympic Games is make or break for golf’s future in the competition. Golf also will be played in the 2020 Olympics, but the IOC will review golf’s future inclusion after Rio. So there’s no guarantee for 2024.

A world-class player such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Scott or Oosthuizen winning the gold medal would do more for golf’s future inclusion than a lesser name who won with the help of a good match-play draw.

Why is golf in the Olympics important? To help grow the game in nations with no tradition of golf. Talk to officials in Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and many other non-golfing nations, as I have done, and they’ll tell you that they can get funding for golf precisely because it has become an Olympic sport. They can start to develop their own Adam Scotts and Louis Oosthuizens.

Let’s look at scheduling and ask a simple question: Is playing Rio this summer such an onerous task?

The problems of fitting an Olympic tournament into an already tight schedule have been discussed ad nauseam. Here’s the reality: For Scott and Oosthuizen, we’re talking about a maximum of 10 events in a 17-week period, from the Memorial Tournament through the Tour Championship. That run also includes three majors, a WGC and the four-tournament FedEx Cup series.

I’m not suggesting that Scott and Oosthuizen compromise their major-championship preparations for the sake of the Olympics. We all understand that these tournaments define a player’s career. But don’t tell me it’s a hardship to play 10 tournaments in the space of 17 weeks. And that’s only if they make it all the way to the Tour Championship.

If scheduling is so difficult, then drop the WGC event or the Memorial. Jack Nicklaus would understand. These events take place every season.

The bottom line, though, is that we’re talking about the Olympic Games. The world’s very first sporting spectacular.

Why would any golfer turn down the chance to compete for his or her country in the world’s oldest sporting competition? Why wouldn’t you jump at the chance to win an Olympic gold medal, especially when the chances of winning are far better than winning any of the four majors? Remember, they have to beat only 59 other players in the Olympics.

Not many fans are going to remember who won the 2016 Memorial or the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational or even a FedEx Cup playoff tournament. Most will remember who won gold in Rio.

NO: Olympic golf fails to resonate among game’s elite male players

By Jim McCabe

What a pretentious lot we’ve become, sitting back and judging how others should live their lives and set their priorities. We even tell them what they are “obliged” to do.
Based on what? Our values and interests?

We decide the Olympics are a big deal, so that’s it. You have to think they are, too.
Please.

Most of us can’t fathom what it is to be an elite athlete, nor do we comprehend the time and sacrifice that most of them undoubtedly have made and continue to make to remain there. These athletes are motivated by whatever is the pinnacle of their sport. What likely has inspired male golfers are dreams of a Claret Jug, green jacket, national open or PGA title.

Swimmer Michael Phelps has only one athletic avenue to pursue: the Olympics. Similarly, to skiers and track stars and gymnasts and figure skaters, an Olympic medal is the ultimate.

Unlike them, the golfer never has had the Olympics dangled in front of him. Now that it is, some aren’t that overwhelmed. Some see the bigger prizes they want and know how they need to prepare for them, given that their windows of opportunity are not opened forever. The Olympics simply don’t register as a priority.

That’s their prerogative. It’s not our place to question them, yet we do. But why?

Why is it so hard to accept that some athletes never have been wired for the Olympics and don’t see the big deal? Tennis icon Pete Sampras played in ’92 and was so unimpressed that he skipped the ’96 and 2000 Games. You remember him for that, or for winning 14 Grand Slam singles titles?

(Apparently, cities and nations share Sampras’ sentiments. The 2022 Winter Games attracted only two host bids, after Norway, Poland, Germany and Switzerland said no to even bidding. Boston citizens came to their senses and squashed a possible 2020 summer bid.)

Why is it so hard to accept that not every sport has to be in the Olympics? Men’s soccer allows only under-23s to play in the Olympics, and soccer fans are OK with that because it is the World Cup that matters. MLB wouldn’t let its stars play in 2000-04-08, which is why the sport mercifully was asked to leave. Hockey works only because the NHL — with NBC exercising great leverage — shuts down for two-plus weeks every four years so its stars can play.

You think the PGA Tour, R&A and USGA would shut down for three weeks every fourth summer to accommodate a proper Olympic golf tournament? Hey, they’re in, but not that in.

Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen have exercised prudent decisions by opting not to compete this summer in Rio de Janeiro. Direct your criticism not at them; instead, hope that the International Olympic Committee and golf officials devise a format for 2020 by which 40 two-man teams or 30 three-man teams truly make it about “playing for your country.”

Instead, we get this year’s equivalent of a fifth World Golf Championships event: a heavy-at-the-top, very-weak-at-the-bottom 60-man field.

There’s no medal for that plan.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home