Golf in the Olympics? Why?

April 30, 2009

Tiger Woods already has more gold and silver than he'll ever need and they'll cast him in bronze when he's done playing. So why would he be interested in seeing golf join the five-ring circus known as the Olympics?

To what benefit for golf? Exposure? The game already has the most recognizable athlete in the world. If you want to grow the game, address cost and time issues.

"Should golf be in the Olympics?" avid golfer and renowned Olympian Bruce Jenner said the other day. "Of course it should be in the Olympics. It's a great sport. On the other hand, does golf need it? No. It's already got so many great events. How would they fit it in?"

Between the British Open and the PGA Championship?

Chicago is pining to host the 2016 Games, the year that golf governing bodies hope to join the Olympic movement. The last three Olympics played in North America (in Montreal in '79, Los Angeles in '84 and Atlanta in '96) began on July 17, July 28 and July 19, respectively. That would make for some tight scheduling in an already crowded summer.

"I just don't think it's important," Jenner said. "Golf does very well with its majors. I just don't see why they need it."

Woods was among 18 leading golfers from around the world to lend their support recently to bringing golf to the Olympics. Color me cynical, but taking an athlete's word at face value is not always a good idea. What else were they going to say when asked by their governing bodies to support their game's bid to join the Olympics?

Even Tiger's support seems tepid at best. At his news conference last week to promote the AT&T National there was this exchange:

Q. You're part of a group of international golfers trying go get golf accepted into the 2016 Olympics. How is that important to you, and why?

A. Well, I think that golf has become more global and has expanded. I think golf, with its rich history, it certainly would be a wonderful fit for the Olympics.

There was no elaboration.

Here's a question to ask: Would Tiger or any other golfer rather win the Masters or an Olympic gold medal in 2016?

"The Masters, by far," Jenner said, noting that athletes in most other sports would prefer Olympic gold to, say, winning their own world championship.

Each of golf's four major championships would trump Olympic golf. So would the AT&T National.

"If it's in there, great," Jenner said. "But it's not like it's going to help golf."

-- John Strege