Facing Rio no-shows, golf looks to emerging market growth

Sun Jul 24, 2016 9:30pm EDT
 
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By Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - Golf's return to the Olympics after 112 years may not be as triumphant as many in the sport hoped.

The top four players in the men's game -- Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy -- have controversially opted to skip the competition.

Three of them cited fears of Zika, the mosquito-borne virus spreading rapidly in the Americas, while Spieth blamed more general health concerns.

Some critics, including the great Gary Player who is South Africa's Olympic captain, have suggested the absence of the top four and several others may have more to do with the lack of prize money in the Games event.

The no-shows represent another blow to the business of golf that has suffered since the global economic downturn and from the nosedive in form and injury struggles of 14-times major winner Tiger Woods.

The sport is struggling to grow as youngsters gravitate toward other pastimes such as soccer, with sales of golf apparel and equipment having fallen for several years.

The U.S. 'golf economy' declined 9.4 percent from $75.6 billion to $68.8 billion from 2005 to 2011, according to a report prepared by research institute SRI International.

Flagging sales have led companies such as Adidas AG to scale back golf investments.   Continued...

 
An aerial view shows a man working at the 2016 Rio Olympics golf venue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 16, 2016. Picture taken July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes