Golf and the Olympics, not as daft as it seems
One of the first rules of journalism is about to be broken. The purpose of the opening paragraph is to lure the reader and with the next sentence I am about to say a big goodbye to a large percentage of this blog's potential readership. So here goes: Golf should become an Olympic sport.
Cheerio then to the many who believe this stick and ball game should never darken the door of the Games (unless, of course, you're digging in for a dogmatic say at the bottom of the page). For those remaining, thanks are due for at least for giving this contentious notion a chance.
A quick reprise: Golf was played in the 1900 and 1904 Olympics, but not since Canada's George Lyon became the last gold medallist in St Louis and the US won gold, silver and bronze in the team event has the game been a member of the Olympic family.
As has been well documented, golf wants to change this and it is one of seven sports vying for a place in the 2016 Games. A decision will be made in October 2009 when baseball, karate, roller sports, rugby, softball and squash will also be making their cases for inclusion.
For once those who run golf have united under the banner of the International Golf Federation and with drug testing now in place on the main tours a serious bid is being made.
And why not? Well Olympic gold wouldn't compare with a claret jug or a green jacket. Correct. Top golfers are professionals. Correct. The golfing calendar is already too crowded. Correct. The top players wouldn't play. Really? Are you sure they would turn down the chance to play for their country?
As for the other points, do they really matter? Rafael Nadal no doubt covets more his Grand Slam titles but look at his reaction and the effort he made to win gold for his country, likewise Roger Federer. Bear in mind they are also professionals, that Michael Phelps will be rewarded richly for his exploits as will so many of the magnificent Team GB and the pro/amateur argument doesn't wash either - not in the 21st century.
The golfing calendar is crowded. So is that of tennis (the closest relative to golf in the sporting family in terms of structure and global stature) but it finds a way of incorporating the Games. Golf could too. And I'll repeat it again, when countries call, golfers don't tend to say no.
So to the benefits and there are many. Olympic television revenues are ploughed back into the sports to provide facilities, coaching and scholarships. It will help grow the game in parts of the world that haven't traditionally played golf.
It is such a shame that it isn't part of Beijing 2008. I went to the Chinese capital a couple of years ago to report on the spread of golf in the country. It is growing in popularity among the ever swelling business classes. But there has been no state help and golf is still pretty inaccessible to most Chinese people.
This would not have been the case had it been part of the Games. The Chinese government would have made available huge resources to try to unearth another potential gold medallist.
Why should a game as global as golf sit back and watch the biggest sporting party in the world? Why should golfers be some kind of pariahs? It makes no sense. If you want the Games to be all about the best sportsmen and women on the planet then why should arguably the most recognisable, dominant and highest paid athlete (yes, for that is Mr T. Woods of Isleworth, Fla.) not be there?
A major gathering of the world's best outside the United States would be another benefit - all be it only every four years. With three majors and all the WGC events stateside there is currently a ludicrous imbalance.
The IOC would be dealing with the International Golf Federation which would give that body a greater influence on the game. Although there is a strong US presence on the IGF it is a global organisation and there is potential for it to become a vehicle that makes golf less American dominated.
That's only a potential long term benefit though.
It would also provide a platform for the world's best men and women to play at the same venue at the same time - a so far untapped idea that works brilliantly for tennis at Grand Slams and other big tournaments.
There is a case to be made on several grounds, even though there is an awful lot of opposition to the idea among general sports and golf fans alike. I'm convinced, though, that it would be great for golf at all levels and good for the Games. Especially if they ditch the current ultra-conservative idea of yet more 72 hole strokeplay.
It might also lead to the Ryder Cup switching back to odd years to avoid a clash - now that's another argument worth having......