Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Olympics no place for golf

McIlroy right about Games but wrong about promoting his sport.
Golf should be about more than just winning for Rory McIlroy. Picture / AP
Golf should be about more than just winning for Rory McIlroy. Picture / AP

Adam Scott claimed my first Olympic gold and Rory McIlroy has followed him on to the dais.

The Northern Irishman has teed off about golf's inclusion at Rio and is more likely to watch athletics or swimming.

I'd far rather watch golf than the massive list of swimming events but golf does not fit my idea of Olympic sports. Swimming does, although it's not my go-to watch.

So I concur with McIlroy's assessment that golf is an unnecessary inclusion at the Olympics, yet hope his words about not feeling any responsibility to help grow golf's profile were a rush of ill-connected thoughts and sentiment.

Top golfers are part of the game's rich lineage and have some responsibility to nurture the sport which has given them so much.

Golf, tennis, basketball and sevens are some events in the bloated Olympics which don't fit and should concentrate on their regular circuits.

Of course that goes against the IOC philosophies about broadening the appeal, television rights and commercial value of the quadrennial festival. Around the benefits of sport ethos delivered by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games, we have watched the rise in misconduct from officials and competitors.

Nothing in a pile of stories about McIlroy suggest he is aloof or dismisses connections with other parts of the golf congregation. He does his bit with sponsors and interacts with the hordes of youngsters attracted to the sport.

McIlroy is popular among his peers and fans, unlike Bubba Watson, who won a poll of his fellow PGA players as the frostiest golfer on tour and someone they wouldn't help in a fight. He was several fairways ahead of the next grump, Patrick Reed.

These polls should come with a warning about a plus or minus 50 per cent voting variation because next week a list will come out with Watson, John Daly or Rory Sabbatini as fan favourites.

Golf and the Olympics is a scheduling problem like the All Blacks test series in June which is wedged into the crunch qualifying stages of the Super Rugby series.

Who has the right of way? Once Olympic authorities decided in 2009 that golf would be on the programme in Rio and Tokyo in 2020, there should have been discussions with PGA and LPGA commissioners.

How could they work together and ensure their schedules dovetailed? Did they try or did the golf tours refuse to amend their itineraries?

The PGA and LPGA have long-term event sponsors and are long-time fixtures on the global sports calendar while golf has been on a 112-year Olympic break.

After that hiatus, it was up to the five"ring circus officials to approach their golfing counterparts and inquire how they could best integrate their competitions. What was the best fit for the PGA programme with its Fed Ex points overlay competition?

Golfers have their four majors. After the last, many will value a break and recharge instead of heading for Rio and an August 8-14 commitment. Some of McIlroy's comments underlined that feeling.

"I got into golf to win championships and win majors," he said.

His next thoughts became a verbal gaffe with his statement he didn't get into golf to persuade others to play.

McIlroy got back on track with calls for more rigorous drug-testing and blood sampling. If golf was serious about being clean, blood tests and other interventions should be mandatory. Then pro golf and the Olympics might have a chance of aceing their targets in Tokyo.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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