Olympics golf: London 2012 eclipses US PGA Championship

 

94th US PGA Championship

  • Venue: Ocean course, Kiawah Island
  • Date: 9-12 August

Coverage: Updates on BBC Radio 5 live; live commentary of the final two rounds on BBC 5 live sports extra from 21:00 BST (Saturday/Sunday); live text commentary on the BBC Sport website (Sunday only)

It's been an unusual week for the world's top golfers as they prepare for the fourth and final major of the 2012 season.

The US PGA Championship gets under way on Thursday at Kiawah Island in South Carolina - the venue of the infamous "War on the Shore" Ryder Cup  battle between the United States and Europe in 1991, where the USA came out on top.

But with London 2012 dominating the sporting agenda, golf finds itself far from the centre of attention.

Things will be different in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro when golf returns to the Olympics for the first time in more than 100 years but the prestige of the tournament is already under scrutiny.

The existing four majors, the Open, US Open, Masters and US PGA Championship, are the prizes that currently define a golfer's career.

England's world number one Luke Donald says he has been inspired by watching London 2012 and would love the opportunity to win a gold medal.

However the 34-year-old added: "Is it the greatest thing that you could win in your sport? I'd probably put a major above that right now."

2012 major winners

  • Masters: Bubba Watson (Donald finished tied 32nd)
  • US Open: Webb Simpson (Donald missed cut)
  • Open: Ernie Els (Donald tied fifth)

Given time, the Olympics could grow in stature and be seen as a 'fifth major' every four years, but in the meantime, there are many issues that need to be resolved.

The format is yet to be finalised. At the moment the tournament is scheduled to be a 72-hole individual strokeplay, like the four existing majors.

However, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, golf's governing body outside of the United States and Mexico, recently hinted that organisers may consider a team format.

For now there is much discussion here at Kiawah Island about golf as an Olympic event.

That is partly fuelled by sports editors demanding an Olympic slant for their papers, but also by a keen willingness of the players themselves to embrace the subject.

Former world number one Tiger Woods, who has won 14 majors, is determined to play and revealed that he has enjoyed watching Team USA, especially the women's football and the sprinting.

The American added: "I hopefully will have qualified [in 2016]. I'll be 40 years old at the time."

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who won the 2010 US Open, is another player keen to take part in Rio, although who he would compete for is a little uncertain at present.

Both he and compatriot Rory McIlroy have played for Ireland at golf's World Cup because the Golfing Union of Ireland covers both north and south of the border, similar to the Irish Rugby Football Union.

At the Olympics, however, both McIlroy and McDowell would be eligible to play for Team GB.

McDowell neatly swerved that question here in South Carolina, saying: "I'll play for whoever will take me, I just want to be an Olympian."

Meanwhile, golf's inclusion promises to make for interesting times in the Rose household over the next four years.

Justin Rose, England's third best player and current world number 10, told me his wife was a top-level gymnast and her dream was to compete at an Olympic Games, but her best discipline was not included on the Olympic roster.

Rose laughs that it will lead to a few "domestic issues" should he manage to go one step further than her and become an Olympian.

Thankfully, there will be plenty of time between now and Rio 2016 to iron these things out.