Golf will be a part of the 2016 Olympics in Rio for the first time in 112 years. Unfortunately the talk surrounding this long awaited return is not about the course or who is the favorite or the golfers that are attending the games. It is mainly about those who have chosen not to attend the Olympics despite qualifying to represent their country. This is a sad time for golf as a sport as this was a huge opportunity for the game to be put on the world stage and have the worlds best proudly represent their country and the game of golf. Golf struggles in popularity due to its expense, the stereotype of it being an exclusive sport, or even being considered as a sport! Now some of the worlds best golfers have decided to pass on the opportunity to show the world that the game of golf can be fun, exciting and open to all participants no matter their nationality, ethnicity or wealth. I consider this embarrassing for the game and those who have lobbied so strongly to once again get golf into the Olympic games to begin with.
Now, I understand that the Zika virus is a major concern and most golfers who have pulled their name from contention have sited this as their reasoning for skipping the games. For the most part I can appreciate that reasoning as contracting the virus can be a scary thought especially for those wishing to start or grow their family in the future. There are mixed reports out there about the likelihood of contracting the virus but from what I can tell there is no guarantee of contracting Zika thought mosquito bites. In fact the risk is quite low. Also, the virus will eventually clear your system posing no threat to future pregnancies. So, in my extremely uneducated medical opinion, if you are not planning to have children in the next year or so the Zika virus may not be as doom and gloom as the media has made it out to be. However, these guys have access to medical professionals that would have a much better grasp on the health risks than I do and no matter how small the risk, it is a risk none the less.
Yesterday something happened that I NEVER thought I would do and that was side with Brandel Chamblee over my favorite golfer Rory McIlroy. Yesterday, Rory McIlroy made the comments in regards to golf in the Olympics and really appeared to show why he is actually not going to Rio. Rory stated that he probably won't even watch golf in the Olympics and when asked about what he will watch he said "the stuff that matters". That sends a pretty direct and poor message to everyone listening that one of the worlds most recognizable golfers thinks that golf in the Olympics is irrelevant. Brandel Chamblee addressed these comments saying "he will regret those words for the rest of his life" and for once I agree with that assertion and the comments he followed up with which can be found here. This only fuels the fire in regard to the controversy surrounding golf and the Olympics and again takes away from the event itself. Common, Rory.
Rory is not alone in his thinking. Former world #1 Adam Scott has had some pretty strong words in regards to golf in the Olympics from day 1. Most recently he was quoted as saying "Having another 72 hole tournament with a weaker than most field doesn't really pique my interest". Another brutally honest assessment of why one of the worlds top golfers is not giving the Olympics the time of day.
The worlds top golfers not attending the Olympics is likely to be the focus of most discussions leading up to the Games and this is a shame. While it is very unfortunate that these golfers are passing up an opportunity others would kill to have a chance at, it is more unfortunate that we are not focusing on those who are going to the games. Golf is back in the Olympics! Lets get at least a little excited about that! I cannot wait to see what Gil Hanse, one of the great golf course architects of our time, has created in Rio for the world to enjoy. Even with Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson withdrawing from the games, the USA still has a formidable team in Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kucher who may be challenged by Great Britain's Justin Rose and Danny Willett. Lets not forget we have two Canadians vying for gold in Graham DeLaet and David Hearn! There is still great potential for an exciting event and I guarantee the golfers attending will remember and cherish this experience for the rest of their lives.
Instead of focusing on all the negative surrounding golf in the Olympics, and there is a lot of it, lets try focusing on the fact that for the first time in 112 years golf is back in the Olympics! There is still many quality golfers playing a quality golf course in a beautiful country. I will be watching intently, cheering on the Canadians in the field and when the time comes I do believe Rory and the others who have withdrawn will regret this potentially once in a lifetime opportunity to compete for a gold medal.