Almost from the moment the announcement was made that golf would be part of the 2016 Olympic Games, ending a 112-year absence from the international competition, one question has remained:
How important will it be in the grand scheme of golf?
And that raises more questions.
For the 60 men who will represent their countries at the new Gil Hanse-designed Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro, will winning a gold medal be the equivalent of winning a major championship?
Will it feel like a major?
Will winning a medal define a career?
And will the four-day, 72-hole Olympic tournament ultimately change golf’s profile in countries where the game still struggles to develop a significant presence?
With the Games now less than five months away, there is a growing sense of anticipation about golf’s return. Players talk about what it would mean to walk with their fellow countrymen in the opening ceremonies and to be part of the Olympic community, something golfers have seen only from the outside.
It’s not so much a question of green jacket vs. gold medal. It’s about having the chance to be part of something that’s been missing since Canada’s George Lyon won the last golf gold medal in 1904.
“I think we’re going to treat it as a fifth major and we’re going to prepare like it is,” Jordan Spieth has said.