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Olympics return good news for golf

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Iain Carter | 15:07 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

Despite a degree of opposition among the IOC delegates and a liberal sprinkling of cynicism and scepticism from inside and outside the game, golf is once again an Olympic sport and will be part of the sporting carnival in Rio in 2016.

Make no mistake, this is ultimately a business decision by the IOC who, despite 27 votes against inclusion, are looking for a lucrative slice of golf's commercial and television portfolio, as well as its ever expanding appeal in the Far East.

But for golf, the benefits will also run deep, with membership of the Olympic family offering potentially significant influence on how the game is run and perceived.

Already, the campaign for Olympic status has brought together disparate governing bodies that have put aside their own agendas to act as one under the International Golf Federation umbrella.

Golf needs international leadership to bring tours together so they don't compete against each other, but instead work together to produce schedules that work for players and fans alike.

Yes, it's a pipedream, but one worth putting on the IGF's agenda, given that the organisation has acquired more teeth with its successful Olympic bid.

Tiger WoodsWill Tiger Woods add Olympic gold to his collection of major titles in 2016?

This move to attach the famous five rings to the game was also at the heart of the introduction of drug testing at the top of the game. Now golf is proving itself to be clean and is living by the standards of other sports.

The Royal and Ancient's Peter Dawson and PGA Tour's Ty Votaw should be applauded for spearheading the campaign, though it is hard to fathom why they failed to ensure representation at the African Olympic Congress in Nigeria earlier this year.

Today's vote was by no means a shoo-in despite the executive recommendation golf and rugby sevens received in August. Delegates still needed to be convinced and especially by golf after the African no-show and because of its reputation for elitism.

There was tough questioning in Copenhagen especially on the subject of men-only golf clubs - the R and A and Augusta National spring to mind. But this is the way of the world if you want to evolve from an insular, solitary position to one in which you are a member of a global family and those organisations need to get used to it.

Suddenly golf becomes answerable to such questions. So Mr Dawson why no female members at your R and A? And Mr Billy Payne, you ran an Olympics, so surely your Augusta club should start to move with the times?

Messrs Dawson and Payne may well have answers to those questions, but it is an interesting thought that they are now being put by some of the most influential voices in global sport.

Who knows, they may prompt change. At the very least they will inspire the kind of modern thinking required to ensure golf thrives in the 21st century.

It's also worth pointing out that while Olympic gold will not, in all honesty, be the pinnacle for Tiger Woods (assuming he's still interested in 2016 when he'll be 40) but it will be a huge motivator for those who can raise a less familiar flag at medal ceremonies.

Ireland might be one example, though Rory McIlroy's preference is to play for Britain. Golfers enjoy playing for their country and indeed, when it comes to the Ryder Cup, for their continent. The game is presented at its best when the prize is not monetary but all about glory.

But expect the United States to dominate the men's tournament and the South Koreans to clean up in the women's. The plan is for both to have fields of 60 players including the top 15 in the world from the men's and women's rankings.

The rest of the field is based on world ranking with a maximum of two players from each country. So if the Games were next week, Britain would be represented by Paul Casey and Lee Westwood by virtue of their top 15 status - were an Ian Poulter or Ross Fisher or both force themselves up to such a ranking they would play as well.

Currently the US would have seven players in the men's event. The Irish team would be Padraig Harrington (courtesy of his top 15 status) and world number 161 Damien McGrane - the next highest ranked Irishman, assuming a raft of Northern Irish players follow McIlroy's lead and declare for Britain.

There are five South Koreans in the women's top 15, while the British team would be Catriona Matthew (No.16) and Karen Stupples (No51).

There have to be reservations over the make-up of the fields because if Britain had two players in the top 15 of the women's ranking Matthew would miss out even though many of those eligible to play would be ranked well below her.

Michelle WieMichelle Wie (left) could be going for gold for the USA in Rio de Janeiro

An opportunity also looks like being missed by opting for straightforward 72-hole strokeplay. Other formats present the game in an attractive light whether they be group and knockout matchplay or a team format such as that used in the world cup where players team up for fourballs and foursomes.

But overall golf's inclusion in the Olympics would seem to be good news for anyone who wants to see the game move with the times.

Gold should become an ambition for all leading players and let's hope it is, because the calendar would welcome a truly global tournament not automatically staged in the United States that golfers aspire to play and win.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have shown how much the Olympics mean to them with a commendable commitment to the tennis tournament in Beijing despite its proximity in the calendar to the US Open.

There were others, however, whose approach was not so wholehearted, and there are enough cynics in golf to ensure a similar attitude from some players towards the Rio tournament.

But let's hope they are in the minority and a greying Tiger Woods with word and deed proves the IOC correct in inviting golf to join the party.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Ian, Whilst I agree with the points on your blog, has the Olympic committee given a couple of medals to the wrong sports? Both Golf & Rugby get plenty of airtime and I read an article that stated that Olympic sports should really be for those where the pinnacle of that sport should be an Olympic medal. The Open, US Open, Augusta and the Ryder Cup will always be bigger due to history. Rugby 7s is an abbreviated sport which does not even command the attention of the best players around. Surely as people from the UK we should be pushing for netball. This is still played by the majority of our school girls around the country and does not benefit anywhere from TV coverage, money or sponsorship like golf or rugby. Maybe this is why it has not been included, but to watch not all the best golf players on courses with no history, name a famous RIO golf course, lets get real. This is about the sponsors and revenue they can generate, not the Olympic ideals.

  • Comment number 2.

    What a joke, what next Formula One, snooker, darts, tiddlywinks! It's all about money, not the Olympic ideal. Golf is more of a pastime than sport as are many recreational activities that we label sport. A gentle stroll around a park knocking balls into a small hole.
    There are many other "sports" which need to be taken out of the Olympics - tennis, football, basketball. These are all high earning, high profile sports that have no place in this event. It is just about people fulfilling their large egos.

  • Comment number 3.

    Golf is one of the few sports that lives up to the Olympian ideals, any form of cheating is considered a career threatening event. Not so soccer, rugby, basketball etc.

    I am happy to see it there, but would much prefer to see the top amateurs playing rather than Tiger and co. A job for Mr. Dawson rather than Mr. O'Grady!

  • Comment number 4.

    Well the first three comments just about say it all, but I will add:

    Olypmic ideals? Rubbsh.
    You say yourself it was a business decision.

    "Living by the standards of other sports". What, like the "Olympic" standards of the Eastern-Bloc countries in the cold war?

    I'm not a golfer, but I don't recall seeing national flags raised at most golf tournaments. The Olympics doesn't "bring nations togehter", it plays on nationalism.

    And please don't get me started on the transfer of more power to the dubious politics, personalities and finances at the apex of this charade.

  • Comment number 5.

    First time I've ever felt the need to post on a blog -

    2 - May I ask how often and at what level have you competed in golf, football, tennis or basketball?

    Just because you don't find a sport to your liking does not mean others don't.

    Golf is not just a stroll in the park, football I suppose a jog? Basketball a fast stroll with a ball?
    Tennis whacking a ball with a bat?

    I'm a golfer and personally cannot see the attraction with fishing, but do I think it's simply sitting on a riverbank with a stick hoping for the best? No. Just because I don't understand fishing doesn't give me the right to insult the skill and dedication that fishermen and women put into their chosen pastime.

    If in 2016 you choose not to watch the golf, simply press the red button and watch athletics. Or is that just a jog round a track?

    One mans muck......

  • Comment number 6.

    As big a golf fan as I am, I have to say that I disagree with golf in the Olympics. There are so many events in the calender already, which the recent spat between Harrington and Bjorn has highlighted.
    Harrington has objected to plans of playing one events in Europe to retain his tour memebership, yet campaigns for golf in the Olympics? Doesn't add up to me.
    If it was to be included, it should have been for the elite amateurs, not pro's.

  • Comment number 7.

    The proposed qualifying criteria is worrying me. Why have the top 15 automatically going to the olympics?
    USA would have more competitors than anyone else (in mens). In track and field events the selection process for each country means only the top players 'from that country' get to compete.
    Each country should have two or three places and it should be up to the country to select who they wish to represent them.

  • Comment number 8.

    Have to agree with most on here. I've been golfing since I was 11 but don't think golf should be an Olympic sport. It is a shame the people who profess to uphold the Olympic ideal don't have the backbone to actually do so. The essential issues for me are, firstly, will the Olympics be the pinnacle of the sport (ans: no due to 4 majors and the Ryder Cup. Same story with tennis, football and road cycling to name a few more) and, secondly, the issue of golf's continued exclusiveness, and by this I mean the gender inequality issues more than monetary.
    I see the Olympics as the show case for niche/smaller sports (call them what you will) that through an amalgamated event can achieve a high degree of exposure every four years.
    Squash for one I think can feel very let down by this decision.

  • Comment number 9.

    Keithwl....What utter rubbish. Where is the inequality in golf?
    I too have played golf for many many years and have seen my club (as traditional as they come) pander to the needs of women, allowing them full access to the course and clubhouse and even allowing them to play in traditionaly mens competetions. They pay less fees for this priveledge I might add.
    Then we have the example of Michelle Wie who has time after time attempted to compete against men, where did this get her?
    Which other sports, olympic or not, allow equal competition for men and women? It's not possible unless you maybe include snooker, bowls, or darts?
    Why do we want the olympics to show noche/smaller sports? The reason most of them are niche/smaller sports is precisely because nobody wants to play or watch them. I want the olympics to be the best sports where the best participants compete.
    Have you ever watched top level squash? Dull as dishwater!

  • Comment number 10.

    hold on, i have a dream, where all men can compete for olympic glory,where men are not judged by their athletic ability, but by their ability to play to their golf handicap!
    imagine the olympic qualifying process, stapleford tournaments throughout the country if not the world,the debate,full or 3/4 allowance,celebritys,sportsman,bank managers,postmen,captains of industry,politicians all striving to represent their country at golf in the olympics
    is this not the true epitome of the olympic ideal
    peter allis whispering that young maurice has this for the gold medal
    millions will be watching,it could have been them!

  • Comment number 11.

    What a tragic attitude to other equally deserving sports. I do not like squash, I don't find it interesting but the 'we're better than them attitude' is alarmingly misconceived. There are many more non golfer's who will rate our game no better than dishwater either.
    Also very very pleased to hear clubs making efforts for women, I can name many too, and quite rightly, but it has to continue to improve.

  • Comment number 12.

    I personally feel that if they are going to make golf an olympic sport then it should be for the amateur golfers to get more recognition, Not having places automatically given to the professionals.

    Golf Back in Olympics

 

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