Adam Scott wrong to dismiss Olympic golf

2015 05 Olympiclogo

“Golf doesn’t need to be in the Olympics... It’s nothing I’ve ever aspired to do and I don’t think I ever will. It’s all about the four majors and that’s the way it should stay for golf.”

Adam Scott definitely didn’t equivocate when pressed for his thoughts on golf’s imminent return to the Olympic set-up.

The sport will feature in next year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro, bridging a 112-year gap since it last appeared in the quadrennial event. Some are pleased by this – Tiger Woods has described it as ‘very important’ and ‘something different’ – whilst others, like 2013 Masters champion Scott, are considerably less enthused.

Frankly, I can’t see why golf shouldn’t be in the Olympics. For one thing, it stands to benefit from enhanced global exposure (over 70% of the world’s population tuned in to at least some of the Beijing Games in 2008) which should assist the R&A and USGA in their combined goal of ‘growing the game’ into new territories. Other obvious spin-offs include access to greater funding and, of course, the introduction of tougher drug testing procedures, bringing golf into line with most other major sports.
It used to be that I would tell anybody who would listen that the presence of golf and golfers in the Olympics was demeaning to other athletes and other sports.

The detractors counter by saying that, because winning an Olympic gold medal wouldn’t be the ‘pinnacle’ for a golfer, on account of the fact the sport already has four long-established major championships, then there’s no point in it being there.

To me, that’s a lazy, redundant argument. I should know. I used to subscribe to it. It used to be that I would tell anybody who would listen that the presence of golf and golfers in the Olympics was demeaning to athletes in sports where winning a gold medal is the biggest and best thing they can achieve, the completion of a lifetime's work and dedication.

Previews - Winter Olympics Day - 6

Then I thought about it some more. Winning an Olympic gold medal for golf won’t be as great an achievement as winning one of the four majors at next year’s Games and it’s possible it won't be in our lifetimes. But generations down the line, who’s to say that winning gold won’t mean as much as slipping into green?

Competitions aren’t born with prestige. That’s something that is developed over time. So, whilst Olympic prizes aren’t particularly aspirational amongst golfers at the moment, isn't there a chance they will be by, say, the 2116 Games?

Remember, there was a time that winning the US Amateur was regarded as one of golf’s ‘pinnacle’ achievements. There was also a time when the Open was new, the US Open was new, the Masters was new and the PGA was new. Ask yourself: were they born desirable or did they become desirable?
Almost 30 years on, is a gold medal in tennis as big a deal as winning, say, Wimbledon? No, but it’s getting there.

Men’s tennis has four grand slams, the youngest of which is the French Open, granted ‘major’ status by the ILTF (now the ITF) in 1925. So they’re well established, more so even than men’s golf’s four majors.

Tennis was reinstated as an Olympic sport in 1988 and, no doubt, similar arguments raged then. Almost 30 years on, is a gold medal in tennis as big a deal as winning Wimbledon? No... but it’s closing the gap, as evidenced by the identities of the most recent two gold medallists: Rafael Nadal (2008) and Andy Murray (2012), below.

Olympics Day 9 - Tennis

Murray, you may recall, defeated Roger Federer, the most successful men’s tennis player of all time, with 17 grand slam victories to his name. Now 33, speculation is rife over when Federer might retire. One line of thought is that he’ll stick it out until the end of next year at least. Why? Because he wants to give himself one more chance to win the only prize missing from his collection – Olympic gold.

If that’s how much it means to the world’s best tennis players right now - less than 30 years and just seven Olympic Games on from the sport’s reinstatement - who’s to say where golf might be a few short decades from now?

As for the ‘it demeans other sports’ argument, do you really think Usain Bolt cares whether golf is in the Olympics or not and how much medals mean (or not) to the players of the ‘Royal and Ancient’ game? I don’t think so.

Adam Scott, like everyone, is entitled to his opinion on golf’s Olympic status and, granted, the powers-that-be have made a poor call on the format - nobody needs another 72-hole strokeplay on the calendar.

To me, though, the pros of its involvement vastly outweigh the cons.

Besides, who doesn’t want to spend a few weeks in Brazil?

Adam Scott on golf in the Olympics :: your thoughts?

Do you agree with Adam Scott's take that golf shouldn't be in the Olympics? Or do you agree with Michael McEwan that there's a perfectly good place for it? Leave your thoughts in our 'Comments' section below.

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