What a mess.
When it was announced that golf would return to the Olympics after 112 years, no one expected this.
Adam Scott. Charl Schwartzel. Louis Oosthuizen. Rory McIlroy. Jason Day. Shane Lowery.
Out, out, out, out, out and out. The last two on that list announced their withdrawals on Tuesday, turning a trickle into a flow.
And there are more not on that list and very likely more to come. The next might be Jordan Spieth, who is apparently wavering.
“Right now I’m uncertain,” said the 22-year-old at his press conference for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. “Always been excited about the possible opportunity, but there’s quite a few different factors that would turn somebody away from going. It’s not just one, there’s quite a few factors.”
One of the factors that could keep Spieth in the Olympics is his significant sponsorship with Coca-Cola, which happens to be one of the Games’ biggest backers.
With or without Spieth, the damage has already been done. There hasn’t been a tee shot hit in Olympic golf in 112 years and already it’s suffering a black eye. While other athletes have pulled out with concerns, no sport has been as hit as hard as golf.
At the moment, the sport is only assured of two appearances in the Games: 2016 and 2020 in Tokyo. After that, it could be dismissed similar to once-Olympic sports baseball and lacrosse. Heck, even tug-of-war was an Olympic Sport for six Games, which would be more than golf if it gets punted.
Now it’s hard to fault anyone for not wanting to go to Rio based on concerns for their family. Zika virus is a real threat although it seems a very slight one. As Geoff Shackelford pointed out in his blog, there are no reported cases of Zika from those who worked to build the golf course. Also, Brazil is in its winter, meaning the mosquitos are less. And the golf course is in an exceptionally windy area of Rio, meaning again, the mosquitos are few.
It should be pointed out that, despite the withdrawals, the field is still quite strong. At the moment, seven of the top 10 in the world are planning to play, a list that includes Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett and Justin Rose.
And so far, while the top men are dropping out, no women have. They appear ready and willing to play, embracing the opportunity and trusting the organizers to provide for their safety.
The four Canadians likely to represent Canada in Rio are also still gung-ho. David Hearn and Graham DeLaet on the men’s side and Alena Sharp and Brooke Henderson on the women’s are ready to sport the Maple Leaf.
Perhaps as with other Olympics, all the worries will be overblown and the competition will come off without any problems. Right now, some of golf’s best aren’t willing to take that chance and as a result, golf at the Olympics is falling flat.