Tokyo Olympics: If the players don't care about Olympic golf tournament, why should we?


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Tokyo Olympics: If the players don't care about Olympic golf tournament, why should we?
Lee Westwood’s decision to opt out of the Olympic golf tournament this week again put a spotlight on whether the sport should be part of the Games.

Westwood is concentrating on the Ryder Cup and the golf’s major championships on the grounds that these should be the priorities for a golfer.

If the Olympics is merely an add-on for any sport then it does not deserve to be included at all.

Golf’s return in Rio after a 112-year absence came with a great song and dance and, for those players who embraced the opportunity, their heads were turned.

It became a running joke on the European Tour afterwards that no one could escape a visit to the range without being treated to a glimpse of Justin Rose’s gold medal.

Rose was rightly proud of his achievement and elevated his gold above his US Open win at Merion as a career high.

Too many of his fellow professionals could not be bothered, though. 

In all 20 players withdrew from the men’s Olympic golf tournament five years ago including the world’s top four at the time.

Tokyo is looking better in respect of the field. As things stand only three players have ruled themselves out – Westwood, Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson.

It is a pity Westwood has chosen not be involved but he was only on the reserve list with Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick currently holding down the British spots.

Likewise Scott, who would have been back-up to Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman as things stand.

The real problem for golf is Johnson’s absence. He is, according to the official rankings, the world’s best golfer and with that elevated status should come certain responsibilities.

A call is being made on golf’s future inclusion in the Games beyond Paris 2024 immediately after Tokyo and the game needs all the friends it can be muster.

The campaign for its inclusion was fought when Tiger Woods cast a spell across the sporting world. There is no comparable golden timepiece with which to hypnotise the IOC now.

Golf has been cut a break with Hideki Matsuyama’s Masters victory. 

His presence in his homeland will give the men’s tournament a fillip. But for the world number one to skip it is a significant own goal. 

Johnson would add precisely zero in terms of pizzazz and personality, but he would bring his position.

It is not a good look for any sport to go to the Games without their No 1.

Johnson put his absence from Rio down to the threat of the zika virus; this time around he has cited the scheduling.

The Olympics falls between the 3M Open in Blaine, Minnesota and the St Jude Invitational in Memphis. They are hardly four-yearly – or even five-yearly – stop-the-clock events.

Japan is a long-haul flight away from his Florida base but so was the Saudi International in which he took part earlier this year. For an appearance fee.

Contrast Johnson’s attitude to the Games with that of the World No 2 Justin Thomas who said this week he would kick himself forever if he did not take up this chance to become an Olympian.

Thomas can leapfrog Johnson at the top of the world rankings if he wins the US PGA Championship.

It would be best for golf if he did so.

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed


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