Should the International Golf Federation, the body responsible for getting and keeping golf in the Olympic Games, be worried?
In the past week, Vijay Singh announced he will not represent his home nation of Fiji when the game returns to the quadrennial competition this August in Brazil. That was followed by Adam Scott, the seventh-ranked player in the world, who said personal and professional commitments will keep him off the Australian team. Now, Louis Oosthuizen, ranked No. 12 in the world and a shoo-in to represent South Africa, has said, in effect, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
It’s not a mass exodus, at least not yet, but it is a troubling start to what was supposed to be a showcase event.
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Today, IGF president Peter Dawson put out a statement that read: “The IGF understands the challenges players face in terms of scheduling this summer and it is regrettable to see a few leading players withdraw from this year’s Games.
“The Olympics is the world’s greatest celebration of sport and it is exciting and appropriate that golf features in its program again. Real history will be made at this year’s Olympic competitions and it is our belief that the unique experience of competing will live forever with athletes that take part.”
The Olympics themselves might be unique, but the competition, unfortunately, is not. That’s part of the problem. Had the IGF and IOC structured Olympic golf as a team competition, much like college tournaments that are being played right now, there’s a good chance that Scott, Oosthuizen and everyone else would be in Rio de Janeiro with their countrymen.
By making it just another 72-hole event, organizers turned the majesty of the Olympics into just another golf tournament … without a purse or appearance fees.
No one’s hitting the panic button. But if more top players decide to take a pass, the decision-makers who created this format should take a good, long look in the mirror while they cue up the Led Zeppelin playlist and sing “Nobody’s fault but mine.”