Golf’s not the biggest Olympic problem
‘‘There are sports that should be eliminated from the Olympics before tennis and golf. ’’
Golf is in the gun because leading male players are starting to withdraw from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August. Australians Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, Fijian Vijay Singh and South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosterhuizen have announced they won’t be going to Rio. A couple have cited concerns about the zika virus, but the suspicion is the Olympics doesn’t really grab them.
Top golfers point their seasons around the Majors, the litmus test of greatness in their sport.
So far no top female golfers have withdrawn, though they would have more reason to – current medical understanding is that the virus, derived primarily from mosquito bites, has more serious consequences for women.
Golf’s experience mirrors what tennis went through after it was reintroduced to the Olympics in 1988.
Nearly all the leading women played and singles gold medallists have included Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Venus and Serena Williams and Justine Henin. Other medals have gone to Steffi Graf, Maria Sharapova, Monica Seles and Amelie Mauresmo.
That’s a who’s who of women’s tennis over the past couple of decades.
On the men’s side, the likes of Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg either never played at the Olympics, or turned in substandard singles performances. As late as 2004, the singles medallists were Nicolas Massu, Mardy Fish and Fernando Gonzalez, none exactly hall of fame contenders.
Roger Federer has always supported the Olympics and more recently Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have clearly enjoyed their Olympic experiences.
Tennis is now on board the Olympic train.
There are sports that should be eliminated from the Olympics before tennis and golf.
Men’s football, largely restricted to under-23 level, has no place at the Olympics. It’s there because of football’s clout and drawing power.
Boxing and wrestling, which at the Olympics are restricted to amateur competitors, should also be removed.
The modern Olympics is supposed to be about the best, without age or amateur restrictions.
Just because sports have been in the Olympics doesn’t mean they should still be there. Otherwise cricket, lacrosse, croquet, polo, tug of war and motor boating would be on the schedule for Rio.
I’d dispense with trampolining, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronised swimming (relatively recent additions without widespread appeal). The bizarrely named modern pentathlon, on the Olympic calendar since 1912, should go and weightlifting, so fraught with drugs problems, should be looked at closely.
I like some of the recent additions, including beach volleyball and mountain biking (1996), triathlon (2000), BMX(2008) and sevens rugby (2016). They probably better reflect the youth of today than the likes modern pentathlon and freestyle wrestling.
And golf? Ironically in 2009, when it was added to the Olympic programme, Tiger Woods was the compelling drawcard.
He won’t be in Rio, having tumbled out of the top 500 in the world rankings, and a woman we know well, Lydia Ko, will instead be one of golf’s major drawcards.
I don’t mind golf being at the Olympics. The four-day event, confined to one course, fits the schedule well.
It may take a while for some golfers to come round to it, but I’m sure the top players will learn to cherish their Olympic opportunities.
Lydia Ko, who will be one of the big golf drawcards at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.