For many of the stars of the modern golf game golf, playing the Olympics in Rio in 2016 is simply an honour they cannot wait to fulfil. Yes, for themselves, but more than that, for their country, too.
The closest many European and UK golfers got to London 2012 was the British Open before packing their bags and heading off over the Atlantic for a run of prestigious tournaments including last weekend’s Bridgestone Invitational and, of course, the upcoming US PGA Championship for the fourth and final Major of the season in South Carolina.
True, Rory McIlroy did get to visit the Olympic Village to see Danish girlfriend Caroline Wozniaki, representing her country in the tennis. And Sergio Garcia, this year’s European Ryder Cup Team captain, warmed up the Olympic crowd for Rio 2016’s reintroduction of golf from Thames-side, sublimely planting golf balls onto a makeshift green idly floating on the surface of the river’s murky waters. But other than that, tourneys were a-calling.
The way golf has shaped itself, with the modern Tour demanding both stateside on the PGA Tour, the World Golf Championship and FedEx Cup points at stake and likewise covering the majority of the rest of the world on the European Tour, there is little opportunity for team competition. Indeed, with a plethora of events on any given weekend, especially in August it seems, countrymen hardly ever see each other, let alone play against each other.
I recall, earlier this season when Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy were passing the buck between them, neither seeming to want the responsibility of OWGR Number One for any length of time, Rory said in interview that he’d Tweet Luke congratulations every time he usurped him, but the two didn’t meet head-to-head until Wentworth between passing the number one spot between them three times in the interim.
Golf Team Competitions – are there any?
Other than the biennial Ryder and Solheim Cups for the golf pros and Walker and Curtis Cups for amateurs, with the Presidents Cup on the PGA Tour, similarly biennial, pitting American Golfers against an International team excluding European golfers, whom they play in the other four mentioned team events, no. That’s about it. It’s understandable, then, that individual golfers would want to represent their countries on a world stage.
Ahead of the British Open in Lancashire, conversation obviously turned to Rio 2016, with venues all across the UK ramping up for the thirtieth Olympiad. Many golfers featuring at The Royal and Ancient had time to express their hopes of playing Gil Hanse’s golf course (when it eventually gets built) in four years’ time.
Westwood was one golfer packing his bags for a month-long stateside sojourn and the OWGR number four rued the fact that he’d not be in London for the games, whilst they were a hop, skip and jump globally speaking from his home town, Worksop. McIlroy’s visit was only fleeting as he too had to ready for the Bridgestone Invitational, where a respectable 5th finish will have done his confidence the world of good ahead of Kiawah Island on Thursday.
Tiger Woods told reporters that he’d ‘love’ the opportunity of representing Team USA, despite the fact that, as he conceded, he will be 40 at that time, but still willing to take on board the new experience. For a golfer who’s accomplished almost everything in the game, shy of surpassing Nicklaus’ 18 Major Title haul, the Olympics is a torch he can keep burning bright, firing him on as he makes his steady recovery from a three year absence of threatening the world’s top golfers.
One thing is for certain. Whenever (and wherever – I’m not confident that there won’t be more challenges to the location of the Olympic golf course, yet) the course gets built, it will feature on the pro-Tour long after the 2016 Olympics has vacated South America and the IOC is taking on the challenge for the 2020 games, wherever that may materialise. Who’ll be at the top of the OWGR eight years from now for that one, your guess is as good as mine.
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