Gold, Silver and Bust!
A small insight into Golf at the Olympics!
With so much going wrong in Rio de Janeiro with the 2016 Olympic Games, one has to ask when things started going wrong with the golf portion of these Summer games. The moment the IOC announced golf would be part of the XXXI Olmpiad is when things started going wrong for golf’s re-entry into the summer festival. Golf has not been part of the Olympics since the 1904 Games in St. Louis. Yes, that’s St. Louis, Missouri, USA. It’s been so long since golf has been an Olympic sport that it took golf coming back in 2016 for most Americans to know that St. Louis actually was a host city! One can argue whether golf truly belongs in the Olympics and for the sake of argument at this point, let’s take the positive route and say it does belong. Bringing golf back to the Games was tailor made for, not Rio in 2016, but for London in 2012. First off, a new course would not have had to been constructed in Great Britain. (The one in Rio will surely wilt into a wasteland and a reminder of why Brazil did not need these games) The IOC could have had a plethora of great courses in which to make their choice; from the many seaside links to the fabulous inland layouts around London. In 2012, The Open Championship took place at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in northwest England. The Open finished up on July 22, just five days before the opening ceremonies in London. The world’s best players were already in the country, including Tiger Woods, who was in fine form at the time while finishing in third at Lytham. Each and every top ranked golfer in 2012 eligible for the Olympics could have played in The Open, and had a full week to prepare for the Olympic tournament. No one would have pulled out due to Zika or any other health reason (except for some of those strange English culinary dishes!). The PGA and European Tours would not have had to reschedule any major championships and probably would have only needed to tweak their respective schedules a tiny bit. The possibility of Olympic golf reaching major status had a much better chance in 2012 than it does in 2016. Rio could have rode the wave that started across the pond!
Golf is rich in tradition and boasts of many major championships, both for professional men and women, as well as for amateurs. Sports like swimming, gymnastics and track & field (the real sports as Rory McIlroy so rightfully named them) need the Olympics. They are their core sports. And the athletes who compete in those sports need the Olympics. Golf does not. Golf has their pinnacle events…The Masters, US Open, etc. Amateur golf also has long standing championships that have been the cornerstone of amateur golf for decades. Golf also has several team events that have grown to major-like status. Golf is also very random when it comes to crowning champions. The best players do not always win the major tournaments. Over time, the best players will win multiple championships, but winning an Olympic gold medal, although sounding great, would not necessarily produce the sport’s best golfer. Swimming produces Michael Phelps. Track gives you Usain Bolt. When these athletes get that gold medal placed around their neck, we stand up, applaud and agree they are the best in their sport. Period. If Anibarn Lahiri, who is a very good golf professional from India, would win the gold medal in Rio, we would stand up, applaud, and not agree that he is the best golfer in the world. That is what the Olympics should accomplish. It should say what the USGA likes to say about their national championship, and that is that the tournament identifies the best player. But not one tournament, even The Masters, can ever lay claim to always producing a champion who is clearly the best player in the world.
When Rory McIlroy announced he would not go to Rio, he made what many feel were controversial statements. Well, at least that is what Brandel Chamblee of The Golf Channel spewed out. We briefly touched on one comment and that was Rory’s observation that swimming and track & field were the “real sports” and that’s what he’d be watching. Let’s be brutally honest. Rory is correct. Those sports, along with gymnastics are always the highest rated portions of the games. You don’t have to tune in for four long days to watch a champion be crowned, as you would need to do in golf. In an hour’s worth of viewing in swimming, you may see four or five gold medal winning performances. Rory also mentioned that he got into golf to win majors and not grow the game. Again, a very honest answer. When Rory McIlroy was growing up in Northern Ireland, golf in the Olympics did not exist. Why would he dream of ever winning something that was not in his conscience, or in the Olympics? And although Rory did not get in to golf to help grow it, he has done exactly that. It’s what we do in life that influences others. McIlroy has been a breath of fresh air for golf. He’s not an American silver spoon kid. He’s not a British aristocrat. He’s Rory from Hollywood, Northern Ireland who has inspired many kids around the world. He’s doing his part to grow the game by simply being his best and being honest. Chamblee, on the other hand, may be the antithesis. His harsh words for McIlroy may be a bit selfish, or, possibly, directed. Mr. Chamblee works for The Golf Channel. The Golf Channel is owned by NBC. NBC will telecast the Rio Games with TGC covering the golf. No Rory. No Jason Day or Adam Scott. No Jordan Spieth or Dustin Johnson. Throw in the absence of Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson and every young star, and the two biggest stars from the last generation will not be singing, or dancing the Copacabana come August. So why the bitterness from Brandel Chamblee? You decide. Good luck with the telecast NBC. Good luck with Live From the Olympics. Rory won’t be watching. Nor will many more of us!