When golf was announced as one of the newest additions it was a great coup for the sport, a chance to spread the sport to parts of the world which only the Olympics can touch, something which is hugely vital for a sport which is too often considered to be for the wealthy and white. Yet here we are on the eve of the first golfing event at the Olympics in over one hundred years and it is nothing but an embarrassment.
There have been twenty one withdrawals from the men’s side of the draw (only six in the women’s), which when you consider that there is only sixty golfers competing in the event, is absolutely pathetic.
Hence the question arises, why are there so many withdrawals? The public answer for many was Zika; however this is a weak excuse for what may be a deeper issue within the game of golf and with the golfers themselves.
I struggle to understand why a golfer would not want to make history by becoming the first golfer to win an Olympic medal in over one hundred years. A chance to represent your country on the grandest stage in a manner which cannot be replicated in golf. To win an Olympic medal transcends the actual sport you won it in; it is bigger than that, so although every golfer would choose to win a major over an Olympic gold, a person uninterested in the sport will always look more fondly on someone who has done it for their country.
Which brings the biggest issue with all the withdrawals from the Olympics, every player who has withdrawn has betrayed the sport of golf. The Olympics is a chance for golf to build an audience which it otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. People who wouldn’t have dreamed about watching gold all of a sudden hooked because their countryman is going for gold, it’s what makes the Olympics so special
Maybe those people who were captivated by the final round go out the next day and buy a set of clubs, get a season, maybe it reignites someone’s love for the game, maybe it means they no longer hold reservations about golf or maybe it just means they tune in the next time it’s on. Yes some in golf will feel that they don’t need these new people, however when you have a chance to grow your audience and your sport, why would you then turn your back on it?
That is essentially what every single withdrawer has done, they have turned their back on the game of golf, they have turned their back on their country and they have betrayed every single person who works in golf.
So what are the many excuses which have been thrown about in regards to withdrawing from the Olympics? Well Zika is the big excuse; however it is a pretty pitiful excuse. Zika is a mild fever which is fairly harmless unless you are a pregnant woman, seeing as none of the men are currently pregnant it is hardly a good excuse. There have been a few cases of sexually transmitted Zika, however these have been small. It should also be noted that it is currently winter in Rio and the mosquito numbers will be very small.
The chances of actually catching Zika currently in Rio are fairly small due to it being winter, none of the golfers are pregnant and the only way they could pass this on to a partner is if they had unprotected sex. Essentially any golfer who claims that the reason they aren’t coming to the Olympics because of Zika is saying that getting their hole (aka sex) is more important than spreading the game through the world and a chance to win a major competition for their country.
The other issue may be the concerns in regards to potential crime in Rio. It’s a fair point, Rio isn’t the safest of cities and it definitely has its problems with crime and poverty, however we are talking about some of the richest sportsmen in the world who would be able to afford high end security if they so desired. It should also be further noted that Rio will also have a strong army presence during the games and that crime (like during the World Cup) will likely be fairly low.
I understand that there are many scheduling conflicts in golf and that players can’t make every tournament, however an excuse of being too busy or tired doesn’t sit well with me. You have the chance to play in the Olympics, an event which only happens every four years and you are telling me that you aren’t playing because you’re a little tired… Another pathetic excuse.
So I have ran through the weak and ill-informed excuses which have been laid out by many golfers as to why they aren’t showing up to Rio, however something which Rory McIlroy said in a press conference prior to the Open has peaked my interest as to why there may have been so many call offs. Golf clearly has a problem with drug testing, McIlroy called them out for it in his press conference and it isn’t too long ago that a Dustin Johnson failed drug test was swept under the carpet.
This is purely speculation, however it would not surprise me if some of the call offs from some of the top golfers in the world were due to the fact that they will be more stringently drug tested whilst competing in the Olympics than they would from competing in the regular tours. Maybe it is not fair to open this accusation, however McIlroy’s words on the matter make me think that he believes that some golfers may very well be doping. It just happens to be very convenient that they can blame trivial things to avoid the possibility of a major embarrassment.
Speaking of McIlroy I have sympathies with the situation he found himself in, a Northern Irish Catholic who had to choose between the UK and Ireland, an incredibly awkward political situation. Of all the golfers who withdrew, I have the greatest respect for McIlroy. Yes he used the problems mentioned above as an excuse to get out, however he had been put in an impossible position where he could only upset people.
Saying that… McIlroy is also one of the biggest culprits in regards to the Olympics. McIlroy openly admitting that he didn’t care about growing the game and that he was only really interested in himself. He then proceeded to drag the idea of golf through the mud by saying that it wasn’t an important sport at the Olympics and that he would be watching the real sports, essentially saying he doesn’t care. To think these things is one thing (he is well known for making a number of stupid comments), however to openly come out and say them is quite another and by doing so McIlroy potentially has made great damage to golfs Olympics future.
One of the oddest things for me in regards to all the withdrawals are some of the players who actually withdrew. Angelo Que (ranked 320) withdrew despite being nowhere near good enough to make a cut at a major because of Zika… Vijay Singh withdrew because of Zika… Vijay who is 53… Beggar’s belief.
Zika and safety may have been blamed for not going to the Olympics; however the real reasons are much sadder. Golfers have chosen to abandon the game and their own country for selfish reasons because they themselves can’t be fucked and would rather concentrate on their sun tan than a chance of winning something of huge significance.
It is a sad state of affairs which golf has found itself in, however all will hopefully be forgotten when play gets under way. It is easy when you are at the top of the game making millions to forget that you have to give things back, and the attitudes of many of the top golfers in regards to the Olympics is very regressive for the game. Yes golf as a sport is doing well, however unless you try to expand the sport and continually look to improve then you will eventually drop off. It will be interesting to see what the uptake in Tokyo will be like because there will be no excuse for anyone to drop out then.
So what are your opinions on golf in the Olympics? Do you think the player’s withdrawals because of Zika are valid? Or do you think that the players can’t really be arsed and are using it as a cheap get out clause? Well leave a comment and share those thoughts.