SHOULD GOLF really be included in the Olympics? If John Daly, Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jiminez are selected to participate in the 2016 Brazil games, where golf makes its first appearance since 1904, we shall witness the very first televised Olympic contest where competitors will be smoking during their event.
Whilst chain-smoking Olympians is probably no more daft than the International Olympic Committee considering the inclusion of World Flying Disc Federation, that’s Frisbee to you and I, at future games golf still seems an unlikely Olympic sport albeit it far more pleasing from a spectator’s point of view than synchronised swimming.
Those in favour of golf being brought back cite a number of reasons why it is such a good idea. Firstly, money raised from the games will be recycled back into the game to provide facilities, scholarships and coaching.
This will, so we are told, grow the game where golf is a rarity, although some would argue that international hoteliers and property developers spend a considerable amount of time scouring the globe looking for more resort facilities with which to tempt golfers and where appealing to local youngsters to get involved is invariably part of the presentation package.
Also there are justifiable concerns that money sent to some countries for the development of sports infrastructure often gets diverted into the bank accounts of considerably less worthy causes.
The second reason cited is that it would be a gathering of the world’s finest at venues other than the United States, and once a year in England or Scotland.
This presumes, of course, that the world’s finest all turn up. The shock of not getting appearance money might persuade a number that a hike to Brazil is simply not worthwhile. Tiger Woods was paid £1.5m to play at the Turkish Airlines Open this year and his comments so far do not sound as though he is exactly captivated by the Olympic golfing ideal.
Most tellingly, he said, ‘It would be great to have an Olympic gold medal but if you asked any player, “Would you rather have an Olympic gold medal or green jacket or Claret Jug?” more players would say the majors.’
And that probably is the kernel of the matter. Shouldn’t Olympic gold be the absolute pinnacle of any sportsman’s or woman’s ambitions, as we saw in London 2012 with Mo Farrah and Jessica Ennis? Or should we say, ‘Well it helped Andy Murray break his duck in world tennis and look what he has achieved since’?
And lastly, if golf must be played, why make it yet another 72-hole strokeplay competition? Don’t we have more than enough of those taking place every week anyway? At least individual matchplay would generate a bit more excitement and would not last as long either.
Ian Poulter, who would probably stand a better opportunity if the format was played on a hole-by-hole basis, said, ‘Most other (Olympic) sports are one-on-one and that’s why I think viewers enjoy matchplay more. It’s more exciting and plays out better on TV. I think matchplay would suit the Olympics better.’
Ultimately it will all come down to money, as pretty much everything in golf does. How much the TV companies want it compared to the blue ribbon events in track and field athletics will depend on how many viewers tune in. And the likelihood of golf capturing the imagination of audiences in countries such as Russia and China is uncertain at best.
Meanwhile in the USA there will be a regular tour event being played and shown on TV anyway that will almost certainly attract a far greater audience than Olympic golf in Brazil.