No golf at the Games, please

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - CHRIS­TINE BREN­NAN

Hon­esty got the best of Rory McIl­roy the other day when he be­came just an­other Olympics fan who said he won’t watch golf.

“I’ll prob­a­bly watch the Olympics, but I’m not sure golf will be one of the events I watch,” said the four-time ma­jor cham­pion who dropped out of the Games a cou­ple of weeks ago. Which events will those be? “Prob­a­bly the events like track and field, swim­ming, div­ing, the stuff that mat­ters.” The stuff that mat­ters. Well said, Rory. Ab­so­lutely spot on. Your sport might never treat you the same way again — not only af­ter this com­ment, but also for the one where you said you’re not re­spon­si­ble for grow­ing the game of golf — but you’ve just sent the per­fect mes­sage to the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee:

Get rid of this game as fast as you can, at least the men’s por­tion of it.

No group of top pro­fes­sional ath­letes has ever turned its back on the Olympic Games as brazenly as this col­lec­tion of the best male golfers in the world: McIl­roy, Jor­dan Spi­eth, Ja­son Day, Dustin John­son and their ilk. The women? That’s an­other story. Ev­ery top fe­male golfer is go­ing to Rio. There’s only one who would have been in the Top 60, the 39th — ranked player in the world, Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa, who said no.

In­ter­est­ing, isn’t it, that the world’s top male golfers are the Zika wor­ry­warts, while the world’s top women golfers are the daunt­less ones?

For that mat­ter, Michael Phelps is of child­bear­ing age (clearly, hav­ing just had a son), as are Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin and ev­ery other Olympian, Amer­i­can and other­wise, about 10,000 in all, go­ing to Rio.

None of them has dropped out due to Zika. Not a one. Of course they haven’t.

An Olympic gold medal means every­thing to the swim­mers, the row­ers, the fencers, even the women golfers. How spoiled are McIlory and Co.? An Olympic gold medal would be just an­other bauble gath­er­ing dust on their tro­phy shelves.

Ac­tu­ally, I’m won­der­ing if the word “Zika” isn’t male golfer code for some­thing else. Some­thing along the lines of: “I’m outta here.”

That said, if there’s one group that de­serves to be em­bar­rassed by this mass de­fec­tion of top tal­ent, it’s the IOC. Many IOC mem­bers think they’re roy­alty and want to be sur­rounded only by celebri­ties, so of course they wanted cool male golfers like Tiger Woods to grace them with their pres­ence.

Then Tiger’s back gave out, his game soon fol­lowed and the new guys would rather take the week off, so here we are. The IOC would have been far bet­ter off keep­ing soft­ball and never try­ing to bring back golf. Then again, the only sports or­ga­ni­za­tion that does more dumb things than the IOC is FIFA.

That said, I have a pre­dic­tion: On Sun­day af­ter­noon, Aug. 14, if Rickie Fowler or one of the other three Amer­i­cans is in the hunt for a gold medal, peo­ple will care. The same goes for Satur­day af­ter­noon, Aug. 20. If Lexi Thomp­son or one of the other two Amer­i­cans could win a gold, U.S. sports fans will def­i­nitely pay at­ten­tion.

In 2012, the United States led the medal count in Lon­don with 46 gold medals, 29 sil­ver and 29 bronze. If Fowler or Thomp­son, or Bubba Wat­son or Stacy Lewis, can be­come one of the few dozen Amer­i­cans to win gold medals in Rio, they just might be pleas­antly sur­prised by the re­ac­tion.

Amer­i­can sports fans truly love their Olympic gold medal­lists, and care far more about the Olympics than the Ry­der Cup, the Sol­heim Cup and the U.S. Open, com­bined.

Just some­thing for Rory, Jor­dan and the boys to pon­der in all their free time.

PETER MOR­RI­SON, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rory McIl­roy plays a shot fromthe 16th fair­way dur­ing a prac­tice round ahead ofthe Bri­tishOpe­natthe Royal Troon Golf Clu­binTroon, Scot­land, on Wed­nes­day. He says he’ll be watch­ing the Olympic sports “that­mat­ter” on TV; which doesn’t in­clude golf.

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