TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY, IN RIO?
WITH FOUR MEN’S MAJOR CHAMPIONS announcing in short succession they would not be competing in the Olympics this August, International Golf Federation o cials were left to answer a simple question: Is this the end of tour pros sending their regrets for Rio, or just the beginning? The exit of Fiji’s Vijay Singh, who at 53 had a slim chance for a medal, didn’t cause much angst.An expected but still bigger blow was the withdrawal of Australia’s Adam Scott, who had made plain he considers the Olympics more an exhibition than a true championship. Still, it’s the case of South Africans Louis Oosthuizen (left) and Charl Schwartzel that should have the IGF most worried. Neither had indicated they might skip playing in Rio, but Oosthuizen pulled out for family considerations and the prospect of playing three majors along with the Olympics within a two-month period. “I have always represented South Africa with pride, so I didn’t make my decision without a great deal of thought,” said Oosthuizen. SA Olympic golf team captain Gary Player expressed his disappointment. “I would have given anything to play in the Olympics. Players withdrawing hurt the game of golf.” And that’s the rub. If other tour pros earnestly decide that participating will not be worth the time or energy, the marquee value of golf’s return to the Summer Games after more than a century will be seriously diminished. Following the announcements, IGF president Peter Dawson tried to counter, saying “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.” Perhaps that premise is still up for debate.