13 Jul 2016

Olympic golf? Yeah nah

9:27 am on 13 July 2016

Male golfers ambivalence to the Olympics has been further underlined with four time major winner Rory McIIroy saying he probably won't watch the golf at the Rio Games.

Rory McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

World number three Jordan Spieth, said he agonised over his decision to withdraw from the Olympics, however McIIroy says he's comfortable with the decision not to play in Rio as golf makes it's Olympic return after a 112-year absence.

"I don't think it was as difficult a decision for me as it was for him," the Northern Irishman told a news conference ahead of the 145th British Open that starts tomorrow night.

"I'm very happy with the decision I made and I've no regrets about it. I'll probably watch the Olympics but I'm not sure golf will be one of the events I watch."

Asked which competitions he would view on television, McIlroy replied: "Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters."

None of the world's top four golfers will play in Rio after Jason Day and Dustin Johnson also decided to opt out.

Fourth-ranked McIlroy said he did not feel as though he was letting his sport down. "I didn't get into golf to try and grow the game," explained the 27-year-old. "I got into golf to win championships, and major championships.

"All of a sudden you get to this point and there is a responsibility on you to grow the game, and I get that, but at the same time that's not the reason I got into golf.

"I didn't get into golf to get other people in the game but I get that...different people have different opinions."

McIlroy also believes golf needs a more rigourous approach to drug-testing to fall in line with other Olympic sports.

"I've been tested by the IGF (International Golf Federation) once this year ... but it was only a urine test. I haven't been blood-tested yet. I, on average, probably get tested four to five times a year which is very little compared to the rest of the Olympic sports," he said.

"I've got to know a lot of athletes over the years and whether it be coming to their houses and doing blood and urine, I think drug-testing in golf is still quite far behind some of the other sports," said McIlroy.

"Blood-testing needs to happen in golf just to make sure it is a clean sport going forward. If golf wants to stay in the Olympics and wants to be part of the Olympic movement it has to get in line."

McIlroy, however, does not believe illegal substances can necessarily help a golfer. "I don't really know of any drug that can give you an advantage all the way across the board," he said. "There are obviously drugs that can make you stronger ... and drugs that can help your concentration.

"But whether there is something out there where it can make you an overall better player, I'm not sure."

Meanwhile the defending British Open champion Zach Johnson has questioned whether the sport truly belongs on the Games schedule.

The 40-year-old American, who claimed his second major championship when he triumphed at St Andrews 12 months ago, believes minority sports are more deserving of prominence in an event that only comes around every four years.

"I don't know if golf has its place in the Olympics now," Johnson told a news conference on Monday. "We are relevant 24/7, 365 days of the year, if that's your barometer and criteria relevancy.

"I think golf fans really look forward to the majors ... and the Ryder Cup in particular. I know, as a player, those are my main motivations.

"No offence to the Olympics but I'd rather be on the Ryder Cup team. As an American golfer I have that opportunity and that's what I'd rather," added Johnson.

Johnson believes, however, that it is too early to tell how the string of high-profile withdrawals will affect golf's return to the Games.

"Will it fit in? Is there any motivation? Is there going to be any tradition? ... it's yet to be seen," said the 2007 U.S. Masters champion.

"The Olympics to me is certainly the premier event when it comes down to a lot of different sports. Those sports should be at the forefront, wrestling, all those sports that just don't get the recognition the mainstream sports get.

"Those athletes train essentially for three or four years for that one opportunity and one week. You can argue that basketball and soccer, do they really need to be in there either?" said Johnson.

"My guess is they want a World Cup before they want a gold medal, they'd want an NBA Championship before they want a gold medal."