TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY, IN RIO?

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Inside the Ropes -

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.

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