With golf set to return to the Olympic Games in Rio after a 112-year absence, the event has however seen a number of withdrawals from leading stars take some of the shine off its return.
Out of the 15 highest ranked players who would be eligible to appear in Rio, seven have to date opted not to go, with the threat of the Zika virus being mentioned by many as their reason for not appearing.
Well known stars such as Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Adam Scott have withdrawn, with Day stating the mosquito-borne virus was behind his reasoning, “With what’s going on with Rio and the Zika virus, there’s a small chance it could happen and I just can’t put my family through that, especially with the future children we’re looking at having.”
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy is arguably the biggest name to say he won’t be taking part and stated the difference between the dream of Olympic gold for athletes in other sports such as swimming and track and field being far different to the dream of major trophies on a yearly basis for golfers.
“Most athletes dream their whole lives of winning an Olympic gold and we haven’t. We dream of winning (British Open) Claret Jugs and (Masters) Green Jackets. I’ve said to people I have four Olympic Games a year. That’s my pinnacle.”
McIlroy went on to say that golfers appearing in the Olympics “does an injustice to the people who have trained for four years for this event. Golfers are going to do down there for a week, pitch up and enjoy the whole thing. Other people have had to sell their cars and their homes just to afford to train to compete at the Olympics.”
How Players Qualify
Despite the withdrawals to date, there are still set to be a number of star names amongst the 60 strong field when the 72-hole competition kicks off at the newly designed Reserva de Marapendi course in Barra da Tijuca.
59 of the golfers will qualify for the event through the Olympic Golf Rankings (OGR) and there will be one golfer from the host nation of Brazil to complete the line-up. OGR is based on official world golf rankings with each country allowed a maximum of four athletes in the event if they have four players in the top 15. A maximum of two athletes per country are allowed for those outside of the top 15.
The qualification period for the Olympics began back in July 2014 and ends this coming Monday, the 11th July 2016, after the conclusion of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. The reallocation of unused places will then take place, which will see the spots vacated by those who have withdrawn filled, and the final line up will be announced after the 10th August.
The Future of Golf at the Olympics?
Despite golf only just returning to the Olympic stage, its future remains very uncertain beyond the 2020 Games in Tokyo. A vote from the International Olympic Committee is due to take place next year on the matter, with the number of big name golfers withdrawing from this year’s competition increasingly likely to have an impact.
An alternative option for the future of golf at the Olympics, as suggested by Adam Scott amongst others, would be to see amateurs take part; in doing so giving them a great platform to progress into the professional game, much like in the world of boxing.
With Rio just a few weeks away and the possibility of additional withdrawals over the course of the weekend from more of the sports biggest names still a possibility, it’s a very turbulent time for golf as it makes its long awaited comeback to the Olympic arena.