Golf should lose its place on the Olympic program unless it can guarantee the participation of its top players, International Olympic Committee member Barry Maister has claimed. A number of top players, including Ireland’s world number four Rory McIlroy, have decided not take to part in the tournament at Rio 2016.
He is part of a long list of leading golfers to withdraw which also includes his team-mate Graeme McDowell, South Africans Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Australia’s Marc Leishman and Adam Scott and Fiji’s Vijay Singh.
Another Australian, the world number one Jason Day, has also admitted that he mawithdraw.
The reasons given have included concerns over the Zika virus, family commitments and players wanting a rest.
“I think it is appalling,” Maister, winner of an Olympic gold medal in hockey at Montreal 1976, told New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB.
“I don’t like it and I don’t think the sport should be allowed to continue in the Games under that scenario.
“Once they’ve got in, they have got to deliver.
“Just getting in with your name, and then putting up some second or third rate players, is so far from the Olympic ideal or the expectation of the Olympic Movement.
“The Olympics is about the best, and they pledged the best.
“Quite frankly, any sport that cannot deliver its best athletes, in my view, should not be there.”
Rio 2016 will be the first time that golf has appeared on the Olympic program since St Louis in 1904.
It was added to to the Games by the IOC at its Session in Copenhagen in 2009, along with rugby sevens.
Its participation is guaranteed until at least Tokyo 2020 but will be reviewed after that.
Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, however, has defended players withdrawing from Rio 2016.
“It’s a difficult one, they’ve got a very busy summer and because the Olympics are in there, things are going to get much more condensed and because of that the requirements on the players is much more intense,” Clarke, a former winner of The Open, said.
“Guys might like to have a week off or whatever they need to do, but because the Olympics are there now, that opportunity is taken away from them.
“Personally I’d like the guys as fresh as possible for the Ryder Cup.
“Thankfully I’m old enough that I didn’t have to make that decision [to play in the Olympics].
“I didn’t have to make a decision on who I was going to play for and if I was going to play.
“The Olympics is different for us [golfers] because whilst a gold medal is an unbelievable achievement, it’s not an Open Championship, it’s not a Masters, a U.S. Open or a USPGA Championship.
“They’re our majors and in time, the Olympics will be too.
“That takes a bit of time and at the moment those guys are making decisions based on their family lives and you have to respect that.”
By Duncan Mackay
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz