Although the 2009 International Olympic Committee decision to add golf to the Olympic program has been greeted with much fanfare, the decision is ultimately not a good one for professional golf as a whole, regardless of any potential benefit to the Olympics.
To paraphrase one of the fundamental principles of conservative political thought: Unless it is necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.
Applying this maxim to the matter in question, beyond the veneration of the almighty dollar and the fetish for spectacle, what possible need is there for professional golf in the Olympics? The players don’t care, and the top players’ schedules are already chock-full of international competitions.
The process thus far has been a mess.
From the lamentable saga of “Who will Rory play for?” to the IOC telling Gil Hanse to hurry up, and the reclamation of protected land in order to build the course to much bickering about format and who will compete—nothing has gone smoothly.
More about the mess...
Olympic Golf Will “Dilute the Majors”
Last week, newly-ordained Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson said that he felt Olympic Golf will “dilute” the four major championships. This is both as a function where the Olympics fall on the calendar—between the Open Championship and the PGA—and the fact that professional golf already has four “pinnacle” events during the same relative period of time. Jamming another “significant” event into top professionals' already-overburdened summer schedules adversely influences the majors.
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An Olympic Triumph Should Be the Summit of an Olympic Athlete’s Career
Tiger Woods and other top professionals have toed the line and offered lukewarm support for golf in the Olympics. However, as Dave Whitley writes, regarding a potential Tiger Woods gold medal, “For Woods, it might outrank winning the 1999 National Car Rental Classic. I doubt it, though, since he picked up $540,000 for that weekend's work.”
Where would a gold medal really rank for Woods, who is already a decorated professional golfer? The Olympic games ought to be a competition amongst amateur athletes, for whom the gold medal is the absolute pinnacle of their careers, not simply another item in the trophy case.