A couple days ago Rory McIlroy gave an interview regarding golf in the upcoming Olympic games, and not only was it a decidedly different tone than he originally struck regarding the event, it was unashamedly critical of the sport’s relevancy in Rio and maybe not what the International Olympic Committee wanted to hear from one of the biggest athletes of the game. I encourage all of you to listen to the interview. It’s short, sweet, and strikingly honest over a topic that I think has been suffering from far too much dishonesty for far too long. Rory’s recusal from the event is not the most noteworthy name to withdraw from the tournament, as longtime supporter of the introduction of golf to the games Jordan Spieth recently announced his withdrawal, citing
health concerns reality dosage as his reasons for choosing not to participate.
With the Olympics beginning in a little more than two weeks, golf is far from the highly anticipated 112 year hiatus return that the International Golf Federation had hoped it would be. At this point the headlines are fraught not with potential victors and likely course conditions, but how the tournament seems to have preemptively fizzled out with more lackluster than a night of post prom surrendered virginity. As someone in the industry, the daily scuttlebutt flowing through the pro shop isn’t disappointment that none of the OGWR top ten want to step up for their country, it’s scoff that the IGF and the IOC thought they could somehow swindle the touring pros to join in on their little scheme to force this unwanted tournament upon us. I believe it was Hank Haney that perhaps articulated it the most tastefully when he suggested that, “There’s probably not a touring professional alive today that grew up dreaming of becoming an Olympian.” He’s right. They didn’t. See Rory’s interview above for evidence. They grew up wanting to win
Majors Money, and Tiger didn’t get to a net worth of $700 Million competing in the Olympics every four years. Let’s face it, despite golf no longer still being a moneyed sport, thanks to the extensive efforts of both the PGA and the R&A to reverse stereotypes not only of who plays the sport but how the sport can be played, golf is very much a moneyed country’s sport. Golf does not enjoy the luxury of improvisation that other sports (soccer, track and field,) do. While you may not need Miuras and a Scotty to play a round, you do at least need what you consider to be a sufficient set of clubs as well as at least enough golf balls to get you through 18 holes. Not necessarily a tall order, but not exactly a realistic endeavor for countries still struggling with things like literacy and mortality rates. Golf in America may possess the necessary components for Cinderella stories, (Lee Trevino, John Daly,) but, spoiler alert, on the worldwide stage when it comes to golf the United States isn’t the good guys. We’re Cobra Kai, Globo Gym, we’re the kids in the lettermen jackets from “The Sandlot,”we’re the big evil rich guys that bully everyone around and while I think this is just fine and have no problem watching it every opportunity I get, it doesn’t necessarily make for good underdog sports entertainment television. Golf is a pretty good litmus test for a country’s economic status, it’s no coincidence it exploded onto the scene in Southeast Asia around the time a large portion of the region was experiencing an industrial revolution, so it’s pretty unlikely this year’s Olympic golf tournament brings us some rags to riches story of a nobody from Sudan who practiced with elephant tusks and rocks growing up birdieing 18 to beat Adam Scott in the final round.
The solution? Exit stage left. Bow out while there’s still time. Admit that there’s already far too much profitability in golf as is and adding the Olympics to the schedule would only dilute the tournament pool and widen the discrepancy between golfing and non golfing countries. Revel in the fact that a sport exists where its participants and stewards at both the amateur and professional level not only turn a blind eye to but encourage you to mix alcohol with your involvement with it, and stop worrying that none of the 5,667,655 Gold medals the US earns will have come from sinking putts.