ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Rickie Fowler had a surprise visitor during a leisurely round Saturday on the Old Course.
Peter Dawson, president of the International Golf Federation and the former chief executive of the R&A, arrived by cart at the 15th tee and walked over to greet Fowler, who just had hit his approach to the 14th green.
Fowler was at the Old Course for a links tuneup ahead of next week’s British Open with caddie Joe Skovron and agent Sam MacNaughton. For the next two holes, though, Fowler and Dawson walked down the fairways alone, talking about the game’s hot topic: Which golfers will play in the Olympics?
With 15 players – notably World No. 1 Jason Day of Australia, No. 2 Dustin Johnson of the U.S. and No. 4 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland – already opting to skip the Rio Games, last-minute pleas to attract a high-profile player such as Fowler hold added importance. Players have cited a litany of concerns, ranging from the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness linked to birth defects and with no known cure, to security challenges amid Brazil’s economic problems to a jam-packed summer schedule of tournaments. South Africa’s Lee-Ann Pace has been the only female to opt out.
After his round, Fowler confirmed that he talked with Dawson about the Olympics but did not commit to the games. He intends to make a pre-tournament statement in the coming days at Royal Troon.
If Fowler, who stands in the third U.S. spot on the qualification list ahead of Monday’s deadline, were to forgo a berth, it would be another big blow to an Olympic golf initiation that seems primed for disappointment.
When Johnson pulled out Friday, Patrick Reed was the next up. After Reed said at the Scottish Open that he was eager to don the red, white and blue, his commitment has softened.
“I wouldn’t really say I have doubts,” Reed said. “It’s something I have to weigh and talk to (wife) Justine and talk to everybody about.
“As far as I know, I’m going to go and play, but at the end of the day, I need to go and talk to my family and my whole team and make sure it’s the right decision.”
If Reed, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson or Fowler were to pull out, the next spot would go to Matt Kuchar, who ranks 15th in the world.