Top players eye Rio Games with contrasting views

Thu Dec 10, 2015 2:56pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It will be no more than an exhibition sport; it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; it will be awesome; let's wait and see how it feels once you get there.

These are among the wide ranging responses from top players as they prepare for golf's return to the Olympics at next year's Rio Summer Games after an absence of more than a century, a return embraced by many and panned by others.

For backers, the prospect of golfers walking beside swimmers and athletes at the opening ceremonies in Rio is an intoxicating one but critics argue that golf, like tennis, already has its four blue riband events and should not be an Olympic sport.

Those critics firmly believe that golf's major championships and the grand slams in tennis represent the pinnacle of achievement in their respective sports and that the allure of an Olympic medal would always rank lower.

American golfer Matt Kuchar, a seven-times winner on the PGA Tour who has played amateur tennis at a high level, expressed mixed feelings about the impact of his sport's return to the Olympics.

"Most of the Olympic sports have their 'big event' either once every four years – at the Summer Games -- or once every two years with the World Cups and world championships that go on," Kuchar told Reuters.

"In the golf world and the tennis world, we have our four majors and our four grand slams every year, and then every other week there is a big event going on with major attention.

"So historically you would say, 'Gosh, I want to win the Masters or I want to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Opens, the British Opens that players really gear up to.' The fact that we have an event every week, the Olympics will be another event."   Continued...

Sets of hickory golf clubs sit outside a clubhouse during the World Hickory Open Golf Championship at Monifeith Links golf course in Monifeith, north east Scotland in this file photo dated October 8, 2012. REUTERS/David Moir