Will Golf Win Gold at the Olympics?

The last time that golf was featured as an Olympic sport, Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States of America and tug of war was also treated as a world-class sport. Those Olympic Games, held in 1904, saw Canadian George Lyon claim golf’s gold medal in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Rio Olympics this summer will be only the third time in the games’ history to feature golf. However, unlike 112 years ago, the best male golfers in the game are shying away from playing in the tournament.

In fact, it looks like Rio’s attempt to revitalize golf as an Olympic sport is turning into a disaster, as five of the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 10 men have withdrawn from participating. It is a who’s who list of players dropping out of the competition: Jason Davis, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and more. Excuses have ranged from golf tour commitments and scheduling problems to fears of contracting the Zika virus. In fact, Spieth was the last to withdraw, doing so at the 11th hour. His decision not to play means the top four players in the world will sit out the games.

Positive News for the Rio Games

Perhaps the best news for the Rio Olympics is that two-time Masters Tournament champion and world No. 5 Bubba Watson is still expected to play. Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler have also committed and will join Watson. However, that news has done little to massage the Olympics’ fears that men’s golf will be a catastrophe in 2016.

Although revived after over a century’s exile, the International Olympic Committee may wish it had left the sport in the Olympic graveyard alongside cricket, baseball, lacrosse and Basque Pelota. While the sport has its merits for inclusion, golf’s calendar is difficult to crack during the extremely busy summer months. Add in the fact that players are scared that they could contract the Zika disease, and the Rio Olympic golf tournament is a cocktail of failure waiting to happen.

Of course, there is the women’s side of the competition, and while the top male golfers will stay away from Brazil, the best women are expected to play. According to reports, the top 10 female golfers are set to take part, making their male counterparts look silly — or possibly wise — for not attending. With such a strong woman’s line-up of golfers, featuring world No. 1 Lydia Ko, the ladies’ side should be treated like a victory by the IOC.

History in the Making?

The world was a much different place the last time golf was played at the Olympics. Ice cream cones had just been invented, and the world was still a decade away from the First World War. The 2016 Olympics Games in Rio may see golf ushered back into the shadows alongside tug of war, softball and rackets.

With the men’s tournament teeing off on August 11th, there is still time for more causalities. The women will take to the greens seven days later, giving plenty of time for the disaster of the Rio Olympics’ golf game to take another penalty stroke.

It is also true that the game of golf compared to the last time it was played at the Olympics is now accessible to millions of golfers. In fact the growth of golf has meant there are entire countries including Scotland, Portugal and industries including travel, manufacturing, television and entertainment all of which depend on the game. Who would of thought that could happen one hundred years ago?

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