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Golf in the Olympics? Just Say No

Aug 12, 2009 – 7:00 PM
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Greg Couch

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CHASKA, Minn. -- If golf becomes an Olympic sport then we would finally get to see all the best golfers in the world, as they would come together and play a special, important event.

How many lies did I tell in that sentence?

1) We already see all the best come together. In fact, 98 of the top 100 ranked golfers are in the field here, at the PGA Championship this week. 2) Most of the top players wouldn't go to the Olympics, and the field would be weak and entirely unbalanced. 3) It would not be a special event.

And that doesn't even count the one about golf being a sport.


Golf should not be in the Olympics. But on Thursday, an IOC committee is expected to announce which two sports it plans to recommend for the 2016 Olympics, leaving only a rubber-stamp vote by the full IOC in October to make it official.

Golf is expected to be selected.

"Golf is a truly global sport and I think it should have been in the Olympics a while ago," Tiger Woods said. "If it does get in, I think it would be great for golf, and especially some of the other smaller countries that are now emerging in golf."

And would Tiger, at 40, play?

"If I'm not retired by then, yeah," he said.

This is a big topic going into the PGA, and all of the golfers seem to say exactly the same thing, that it would be good for golf.

And well, sure it would increase golf's profile, if that's what the Olympics are for.

But I don't like golf in the Olympics.

The plan is for a regular stroke play women's tournament the first week of the Games, and then a men's tournament the second week. That's according to Colin Montgomerie.

Players will compete as individuals, not countries. The top 15 players in the world could come. No country could have more than two golfers, unless those players are in the top 15. So in the current world rankings, the U.S. has six in the top 15. That would equate to six Olympians. But No. 16 Anthony Kim is out.

Golf in the Olympics. This is not a good fit, and I'm particularly bugged by what seems to be the motive. Golfers and the game's officials keep talking about how the Dream Team led to a worldwide boom in basketball. That's true. And this could be a chance for golf to grow in places such as Russia, because the game does not expect a ton of growth in the places where the game is already established.

So it's not about a grand event for the game, but instead about marketing, about conquering new turf.

See if you notice a difference in this story:

After the U.S. softball team lost the gold medal game in Beijing, I had a long talk with pitcher Jennie Finch, who was close to tears, feeling that she had been one of the leaders of her game, and had failed it.

She felt it was on her, in big part, to promote the game, to grow it, and to give young girls another opportunity to play sports. Now, it was being bumped from the Olympics.

That's far more about the Olympic spirit than what golf is after.

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Latest Golf Photos
Anthony Kim high fives with a young child while signing autographs following his practice round for the 91st PGA Championship at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Latest Golf Images

    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Martin Kaymer of Germany hits a putt during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Martin Kaymer

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    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Martin Kaymer of Germany hits a shot during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Martin Kaymer

    Getty Images

    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Martin Kaymer of Germany hits a shot during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Martin Kaymer

    Getty Images

    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Martin Kaymer of Germany pulls a club during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Martin Kaymer

    Getty Images

    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Rory Sabbatini of South Africa lines up a putt during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Rory Sabbatini

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    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Anthony Kim hits a shot during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Anthony Kim

    Getty Images

    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Dustin Johnson hits a shot during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dustin Johnson

    Getty Images

    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Jason Dufner hits a shot during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jason Dufner

    Getty Images

    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Martin Kaymer of Germany walks across a green during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Martin Kaymer

    Getty Images

    CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 12: Martin Kaymer of Germany hits a shot during the third preview day of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 12, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Martin Kaymer

    Getty Images

The Olympics are about an ideal, about a sport's best coming together for its big moment, or at the very least, one of its big moments.

That's not what this would be. Golf would seem like an exhibition in the Olympics, with Tiger Woods creating the stir and a handful of other top players. I guess you could argue that the PGA Tour is already like that.

Woods and other top players -- presumably Phil Mickelson will be too old by then -- will be there for fun, not for their Super Bowl.

We already see golf's big moment at four majors a year. Tennis has the same problem, and works only marginally in the Olympics, and that's because most of the top players come.

In golf, you'd find players in the top 25, top 30 being left out to make room for golfers from non-golfing countries getting their 500th ranked, or unranked players in.

On the women's tour, that would be a disaster, as we'd be talking about Michelle Wie going against someone lucky to break 90.

I just looked this up: If the Olympics were today, and you took the current men's world rankings, you'd put the first 15 into the Games, and then, of the next 35, just 13 would be eligible.

It's true that the Olympics aren't the pinnacle in basketball. The NBA Finals are bigger. But at least Olympic basketball is the one time the sport has all, or at least most, of the best players together in one place at one time.

Padraig Harrington said that a lot of people would be upset because they don't consider golf a sport. And let's face it, it's a tough skill, but it's not aerobic and doesn't require fitness. But that really doesn't bother me.

At least golf is an international game, moreso than plenty of other sports. Baseball and softball have been dropped from the Games, and are hoping to get back in tomorrow.

Softball is played only in a few countries. And baseball? The best American baseball players do everything they can to avoid the Games.

Why? Because the Olympics have much tougher steroid testing.

That's my theory, anyway.

But also, one day during the Athens Games, I was walking around the concourse of the baseball stadium when two Greek police officers came after me. "What are you doing?" they asked.

Uh, just walking around. Nothing wrong.

"No, no. What are you doing? They hit the ball and then run around in a circle."

The world doesn't necessarily know baseball.

So not everything already in the Olympics fits better than golf would.

But from here, let's leave the Games to athletes who find them special.

Send me an email at gregcouch09@aol.com
Filed under: Sports

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