Yesterday, Great Britain’s Justin Rose won a thrilling finale of the Olympic Games Men’s Golf competition beating Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open Champion, by 2 shots. In doing so, Rose secured Great Britain’s 12th Gold Medal in Rio. While Rose’s achievement was a personal success and a source of great pride to the Brits; it was also gave the beleaguered International Golf Federation some much needed positive PR.
Golf’s presence on the Olympic Programme is its first for 112 years, it last having been played in St Louis in 1904. However, its position as an Olympic sport has not been without controversy:
- Golf’s stars disclaimed the importance of the Olympics: former Open Champion, Australian Adam Scott, openly admitted that an Olympic medal was “…nothing [he had] ever dreamed of and it really doesn’t have any significance for golf.” and, more recently, Rory Mcllroy infamously stated that he would not be watching the Golf Olympic event but rather the “stuff that matters”. ;
- This is in direct contrast to other sports’ attitude to the Olympics: Squash’s James Willstrop, a Commonwealth Silver Medalist, who may never get the opportunity to compete at an Olympics, stated “The Olympics barely registers as an exhibition tournament for the top golfers, but we would give our other arms to be in Rio, something we have repeatedly uttered to anyone who listens.”;
- Subsequently, many of Golf’s global stars pulled out of the Rio 2016 Olympics: some cited the Zika virus as their reasoning but a few cited simply busy schedules (both personal and professional); and
- IOC Members criticised the sport for failing to provide a competition featuring its top stars: IOC Member Barry Maister went further and stated that golf shouldn’t stay on the Olympic Programme if its players wouldn’t commit.
The International Golf Federation, who spearheaded the game’s return to the Olympic Programme and have incurred much of the flack for its athlete’s attitude to the Olympics, will therefore have breathed a sigh of relief that it was Justin Rose who struck Gold yesterday evening. Rose, on receipt of his medal stated: “The whole week, I’ve been so focused, so into it, so up for it. I was so determined to represent Team GB as best as I could. It was just the most magical week, it really was. I’m bursting with pride”.
To have such an advocate of the Olympic Games as Olympic Champion will undoubtedly quieten some of the game’s critics. However, it remains to be seen whether Rose’s attitude will be infectious amongst the other golfers and/or whether 2020 will see the top stars of the game fight it out in Tokyo for a Gold Medal as well as for the Green Jacket and the Claret Jug. If Tokyo does not see such a turnaround, should Golf remain on the Olympic Programme or should a sport like Squash finally be given its moment?