Paul Lewis on sport

Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: Roll up, roll up for golf's Olympic-sized circus

By Paul Lewis

Phil Mickelson. Photo / AP
Phil Mickelson. Photo / AP

While the field in the year's third golf major are soldiering up and down the fairways at Royal Liverpool this weekend, it's a fair bet the minds of, let's see, how many ... oh, yes ... none, will be on winning a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics.

This weekend's Open is the first qualifying tournament to decide who plays in the next round of Olympic lunacy, when golf tees off as an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904 - a 110-year absence during which it was not missed.

Somehow, golf's masters have agreed to only two players per country being eligible outside the world's top 15. That's like selecting the All Blacks based on two from Taranaki, two from Waikato, two from Otago and so on ... ridiculous.

Sixty players will compete in a 72-hole stroke play format. On current rankings, players like Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Zac Johnson, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Ernie Els would miss out. Mickelson and Els are multi-major winners, Els the defending Open champion.

Furyk, Johnson and Dufner are also majors winners, some of the others have been ranked world No1.

How loony is that? Surely the Olympics are the pinnacle but look what Tiger Woods said. The man who, more than any other, will be needed if Olympic golf is to be anything other than a sham offered: "If you asked any player if they would rather have an Olympic gold or a green jacket or Claret Jug, most of them would say the majors."

Golf risks being as much an Olympic irrelevance as tennis. Men's champions include Miroslav Mecir, Evgeny Kafelnikov, Marc Rosset and Nicolas Massu. I rest my case.

Even when a big name has won gold, it has been in a field of little depth and significance. The Olympic gold medal looks darling on the mantelpiece but ... way to downgrade the Olympics and your own sport.

Golf in the Olympics is a nonsense and is stimulated, of course, not by the Corinthian ideal but money.

They had the chance to make the Olympic event team matchplay, which could contain the emotion and drama of the Ryder Cup. But, no, they made it a 72-hole strokeplay event, just like every other tournament. Only not as good.

It might be all right if they could conjure up an Olympic champion as appealing as the last one. Canada's George Lyon won the gold at the 1904 St Louis Olympics. He didn't even start playing until he was 38 and was criticised for a swing which seemed to be more suited to a cricket bat - he might have been the model for Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore in the (alleged) sports comedy of the same name, a converted ice hockey player who hits the ball with a slapshot action.

During the tournament, the 46-year-old Lyon sang, told jokes and did handstands - and accepted the Olympic trophy after walking down the path on his hands. Hard to see Woods doing that, although it would be in keeping with what seems likely to be a bit of a circus.

• It's maybe close to humble pie time. When Andrew McFadden took over as Warriors coach this season, this column cast doubt on the appointment and the Warriors' ability to make the finals.

Ahem. In an impressively short time, McFadden has shored up the defence, got the attack working and has the team playing like a team. With the successful scrum shove technique, he also introduced tactical smarts missing since the days of Ivan Cleary.

I said at the time: "In fairness to McFadden, he has at least overseen a change of attitude and confidence in his players. Pre-change, the Warriors were a befuddled, miserable sight at risk of permanently alienating their fan base. Post-change, they look competitive and a helpful draw could see them make the finals. McFadden seems to have player support in a way deposed coach Matt Elliott never did."

That favourable draw through Origin is now over but they still have a helpful fixtures list. If they got past the Broncos late last night, they should be in good shape for finals football, as their last seven matches are against the bottom four (Sharks, Raiders, Knights and Titans) and three of the top four (Sea Eagles, Panthers and Roosters).

It's the NRL (so anything could happen) and it's the Warriors (ditto) but Ray Charles could see the improvement.

- Herald on Sunday

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