Golf’s Olympic gold may not sparkle

Gerry Collins Columnist

By Gerry Collins, Gerry Collins is a Roar Expert

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    Aussie golfer Adam Scott. (Photo: AP)

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    News this week that Adam Scott was being given more time to decide if he would be available to represent Australia at the Rio Olympic Games raises the question of how significant the Olympic gold medal will be in the world of golf.

    Reports suggest that Scott has been lukewarm in his attitude to the Games. He had previously been openly critical of the significance of golf at the Olympics, saying that the majors hold priority and are the toughest test.

    One of the majors, the US PGA, has had to be moved forward from its usual dates to accommodate the Olympic golf competition and many believe that there is not enough time between the PGA and the Games.

    World number one Jordan Spieth, however, says that he will be treating the Olympic competition as a “fifth major”.

    His enthusiasm for the Olympics must give the Games competition a boost but the fact that there are other players who question its significance doesn’t help the prestige that it might otherwise have.

    Golf featured in the 1900 and 1904 Olympic Games but it has been absent since and makes its return in Rio. In the meantime the majors have become legendary fields of battle where the best in the world strive for victory.

    Suddenly Olympic gold, the absolute pinnacle of so many sports, is on the calendar as well and only time will tell how well it is received, not only by the players but by the fans. The best parallel to draw with the re-entry of golf into the Olympics is that of tennis in 1988 at Seoul.

    Tennis was similarly returning from the wilderness, having last been an Olympic sport in 1924. Steffi Graf gave the sport an Olympic return to remember by winning the gold medal in the same year that she also completed the Grand Slam of the majors. It is still the only ‘Olympic Slam’ in the sport.

    It’s interesting to consider 27 years later how significant the tennis gold medal is in comparison with the attention paid to the majors. At the Olympics it is forced to compete with all of the other sporting competitions happening at the same time. Yet the world attention that centres on a major seems to be considerably greater than for the Olympic competition itself.

    The Olympics come around only every four years whereas the majors are there every year.

    Yes, some big-name tennis players have won gold medals, like Graf and the Williams sisters as well as Andre Agassi and Rafa Nadal, but some of the Olympic winners have not had a similar impact on the majors.

    The debate about whether or not tennis should be at the Olympics seems to me to have continued right through those 27 years. Surely golf will be the same.

    One competition every four years is going to struggle to hold the attention of four majors in the one year. Given golf’s propensity to throw up different winners at its major events, the Olympic winner might soon be forgotten unless he is also doing great things on the world circuit.

    How many golfers will be like Spieth and look on the Olympics as a fifth major and how many will not even bother going, convinced that it is better to concentrate on winning a major tournament?

    Time will tell but you just wonder if the golf gold medal will glisten as much for the winner as will a gold for the winners on the athletics track or in the swimming pool, let alone the many other sports where the undoubted pinnacle is Olympic gold.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • December 1st 2015 @ 8:49am
      no one in particular said | December 1st 2015 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      The problem is that it’s going to be a stroke play event. There is no reason why it cannot be matchplay for singles and have 3 team events – mens, womens and mixed.

    • Columnist

      December 1st 2015 @ 9:07am
      Geoff Parkes said | December 1st 2015 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Gerry, Speith’s demeanour and attitude is outstanding. I expect it will rub off to others and we’ll see a very competitive tournament.

      Pro golfers don’t get to represent their country very often and it will be seen as special and a privilege. Look at what happens to the US players at Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup – they love it with a passion. The Europe and Rest of the World teams will get to fly their own flags – if Scott really isn’t enthused there will be plenty of others who will jump at the chance to go to an Olympics and be part of the team. Lydia Ko marching alongside Sonny Bill… how awesome is that? For her and for the fans.

      I don’t think Tennis is a perfect comparison. There are not so many Speiths in tennis.

    • December 1st 2015 @ 12:32pm
      In brief said | December 1st 2015 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

      Having golf played at the olympics must surely be some sort of ironic joke. Can you imagine pot bellied men wondering around a paddock in ancient Greece knocking marbles in a hole with broom sticks?

    • December 1st 2015 @ 12:37pm
      Bags said | December 1st 2015 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

      Allanthus, Pro Golfers represent their country at every tournament in which they play. The leaderboard graphics on TV show the flag of the players country…so that when sitting at home fans can see how many of ‘their players’ are on page 1 of the leaderboard etc.

      • Columnist

        December 1st 2015 @ 12:56pm
        Geoff Parkes said | December 1st 2015 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

        You think so Bags? That having a flag logo next to your name as an identifier is the same thing as actually representing your country?

        I’m sure the players identify strongly with their home country when on tour, especially the guys who are on the other side of the world. But when Bubba, Phil, Tiger and co are teeing it up each week on the PGA Tour, they’re doing it for themselves mate, not for Uncle Sam.

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