Golf's elite out on Olympic Games' limb

2016-07-27 11:34

Cape Town - It is an assertion that originates in no less than the bible. "The love of money is the root of all evil?" - 1 Timothy 6:10.

Let's not jump to any hasty or unfair conclusions regarding the absence of the world's top four ranked competitors from the introduced golf segment at the forthcoming Olympic Games sporting extravaganza in Brazil.

But it is a little strange and disconcerting that No 1 Jason Day, Dustin Johnson (No 2), Jordan Spieth (No 3) and Rory McIlroy (No 4), with the exception of McIlroy, all pulling out of the Olympic Games  and giving as the reason the spread of the Zika virus in Brazil.

McIlroy for his part, has been more forthright, not concealing the fact that he regards the introduction of golf as an Olympic sport as a veritable no-no, candidly revealing he will not even bother to watch the Olympic Games golf and that he finds the track and field events and diving as greater sources of interest.

If McIlroy holds the view that golf with its four majors as the prime source of prestige is not designed to feature as an Olympic sport, with his attention focused firmly on this week's USA PGA, that is a valid, if hardly unanimous assessment.

Let's accept that the typically straight-talking, 24-year-old Irishman does not see anything special about securing a coveted Olympic gold medal - coveted by so many other sportsmen - and he is not motivated by the fact that there is no money involved in winning in Brazil, while the PGA has a winner's prize in the vicinity of R27 million.

As for Messrs Day, Johnson and Spieth, is it really Zika - or is Zika only providing an excuse for what some see as a snub to the non-paying Olympic Games in which golf, in any case, is something of a foreign commodity?

England's Danny Willett, who annexed the prized Masters top spot earlier this year, says it is no more likely to become afflicted with Zika in Brazil than malaria in South Africa.

He will be going to the Olympic Games. So are three of the world's top four men's tennis players, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who all covet an Olympic gold medal as the next best prize to a Grand Slam title and whose attitude is in direct contrast to the leading golfers.

Only a lingering knee injury will keep Roger Federer out of tennis for the rest of the year and prevent him from pursuing a proclaimed obsession to add an Olympic singles gold medal to the 17 Grand Slam titles in his possession.
Ironically too, while Zika is a greater concern for women than men, the leading women tennis players and golfers will be competing almost en masse for gold in Brazil.

Legendary athlete and Olympic champion Usain Bolt, who recently suffered an untimely thigh strain, says he will be competing in Brazil "on one leg if necessary" - Zika virus and all.

Day, Johnson, Spieth and McIlroy, in contrast, would seemingly not be dragged to the Olympic Games by a pack of wild horses.

And, with the IOC already unsure as to whether golf is suited to become a permanent fixture as an Olympic sport, the dissenting quartet could be spared having to make a decision in four years’ time when the world's biggest sporting contest is scheduled for Japan.

And, of passing interest, South Africa's three top-ranked golfers, Brandon Grace (12th), Louis Oosthuizen (15th) and Charl Schwartzel (23rd) have all made themselves unavailable for the Olympic Games - and South Africa will instead be represented by Jaco van Zyl (69th) and Brandon Stone (95th) in putting for glory - if not dough!

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