Rickie Fowler (Getty Images)
Rio de Janeiro - USA's
mega-rich golfers are enjoying meeting other athletes at the Rio
Olympics, but they hope not to hang on the course with the world's
largest rodents or crocodile-like caimans.
Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar are bedding
into life at the Olympic Village ahead of Thursday's return of Olympic
golf after a 112-year absence.
"Seeing what it means to some of the other athletes, this is a
special opportunity for sure," Fowler said. "I had a warm welcome from
other athletes and they were thanking me for being here. They
appreciated me big time. They are glad we decided to come."
That's partly because the world's four top players - Australian
Jason Day, Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy
of Northern Ireland - and many others decided to skip Rio, most citing
fears of possible future birth defects linked to the mosquito-borne
"There will certainly be guys regretting not showing up," Kuchar
said. "I know there were concerns. A lot of things get blown out of
"I'm probably asked the most about Jordan and Rory," Fowler said. "I
told them I tried to get Jordan down here as much as possible."
A 60-man field for the 72-hole stroke-play event will find wildlife
in abundance on the course with caimans and chunky rodents capybaras on
"Hopefully we don't have any encounters," Fowler said. "Capybara,
it's a decent-sized animal. I wouldn't want to get in a fight with it,
that's for sure. And the caimans, I'm going to keep away from them."
The US foursome, allowed to exceed the usual maximum of two per
nation because all were ranked in the top 15 on selection day, are half
of the top-20 golfers in Rio.
Open championship winner Henrik Stenson, Spanish number 11 Sergio
Garcia and British major winners Danny Willett and Justin Rose are the
"It's not going to be easy to win this thing," Fowler said. "We're
going to have to play well. But we're the only country that has a chance
at a podium sweep so that's kind of cool."
The promise of silver and bronze medals could impact shot selection
late on Sunday more than it might at a regular event when near-miss
winners matter less.
"If I'm third, I'm going to make sure I don't go back to fourth real quick," said two-time Masters champion Watson.
Kuchar says he is
sure the International Olympic Committee will keep golf beyond 2020 when
it reconsiders Games events next year.
"I imagine golf is going to be a big success and it's going to be an
easy one to keep in the rotation of sports," Kuchar said. "(Odd)
circumstances led to guys not participating, but I think the event is
going to go off great."
"Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time, is a golf junkie.
That speaks volumes for our sport for that guy to love it like he
US golfers watched US swimmer Phelps, the all-time Olympic medal
king, on Tuesday and plan to catch Usain Bolt in the men's 100m final
just hours after their last round.
"It's inspiring," Fowler said of Olympic spectating. "You get chills watching them when they do well."