Golf is making its return to the Olympic Games after an 112-year hiatus. It will probably be a very short-lived comeback.
The 4 top ranked Men’s players in the world; Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have all declined to compete. Their uniform excuse has been the possibility of getting the Zika virus and concerns with security (Spieth).
Each country can send 2 players unless they have 3 or 4 players in the top 15 of Rolex World rankings in which case they can send these additional 3rd or 4th players. Of the 41 countries eligible to compete in the Men’s’ field, 21 players have opted out. During last week’s Open Championship McIlroy showed his obvious disdain by saying that he would be watching “the sports that matter.”
Only 8 of the world’s top 20 players will be participating headed by world #5 and last week’s Open Champion, Henrik Stenson.
Conversely, 9 of the top 10 Women’s players are competing in the Olympics. The only reason that there are not 10 is that the 10th ranked player in the world, Ha-Na Jang, is the 5th lady from the Republic of Korea and only the top 4 are eligible. In a decidedly different approach than their male counterparts every star player from the Women’s ranks will be in Rio.
American star, Stacy Lewis said in a very candid interview that she believes the main reason for the lack of participation by the game’s best men is very simple; money. Or rather a lack thereof. Lewis would also say that; “I want to be a part of the Olympics. I think the Olympics are bigger than any golf tournament on the planet. It’s bigger than the Masters. It’s bigger than the U.S. Open. It’s bigger than the Women’s Open. It’s the biggest thing out there, and I want to be a part of that.”
Obviously, Lewis and McIlroy are at completely different ends of the opinion spectrum. The Men’s game has 4 Majors every year, while there are 5 annually for the Women, but the Olympics only happen every 4 years, making a medal one of the sport’s most precious commodities.
There are over 11,000 athletes from around the world coming to take part in the Olympics, most of whom have spent their entire lives in obscurity dreaming of the chance to represent their country. None of whom have withdrawn from the opportunity of a lifetime.
Sadly the lack of participation by the game’s marquee male stars will probably doom the sport for inclusion in future Olympics, making medals from 2016 even more precious.
When the IOC meet in 2017 to discuss the success of golf’s return to the Games of Olympia, it will seem that being a part of the most celebrated quadrennial, just wasn’t that important for those to whom it should have mattered most.