Column: Olympic golf a bigger stage, a priority for women

The final week of qualifying was the US Open. On the final day a clever member of his team replied: “The decision has been made for him.”

Four other Americans were ahead of him in the Olympic rankings and at Torrey Pines during the final round. This meant that there was no place for world number seven Cantley.

So when the final Olympic rankings were released and 15 players decided not to go – from Johnson at No. 2 to Camilo Villegas of Colombia at No. 225 – it was easy to conclude that the men were better off playing green than gold, silver or bronze. cares more. .

But this is progress.

For Rio de Janeiro, the top four players in the world stayed at home. For Tokyo, there was also no room for numbers 7, 8 and 9 – Cantley, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed.

He will never catch up with the women who, with almost perfect appearances, have made it absolutely clear that the Olympics mean as much to him as they play.

“I can’t overstate what the Olympics mean to a lot of people,” Danielle Kang said last week. “But for me, it’s everything.”

There are, of course, differences to consider in tour schedules and stakes, as well as the fame that women enjoy at the Olympics, not in some of their majors, such as the Evian Championship.

Administrators who lobbied to bring golf to the Olympics should be encouraged by setting two Olympics five years apart and two viruses.

It was largely the anxiety and fear about the Zika virus that prevented 22 qualified players from making it to the 2016 Olympics. There was an unspoken promise that they would all be for Japan.

That was before the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Not only was the Olympics postponed, but the COVID-19 restrictions to go ahead with the Games have taken away a lot of the fun and activity that comes with being Olympic athletes.

Wait till Paris in 2024! To Los Angeles in 2028!

If only it were that simple.

Johnson was already planning to skip the Olympics before the pandemic. He didn’t win the FedEx Cup and it bothered him, so he didn’t want to fly half the world after a major and before the World Golf Championship and then play three weeks in a row with a $15 million prize. Turns out he won it last year anyway.

There will be more players like him.

And so there will be appearance issues with men. As long as a pot of gold remains at the end of the Olympics, the value of Olympic gold will suffer.

Men’s majors have a century or more of history behind them. A century went by at the Olympics without golf.

Consider the last few months.

Kang couldn’t take her eyes off the world rankings, hoping she could keep her place and earn a spot at the Olympics. The Olympics is like the President’s Cup for men. No one really talks about it until the last week to make the team.

“I think male golfers, they just have so many great events,” Inby Park said. “They have so many opportunities and so many different weeks with such a big tournament. For us, I think it’s a little different. We’re not as big as men’s golf.

“So I think girls treat it a little differently,” she said. “The men are trying to work it into their schedules with too many tournaments and a lot going on.”

It was a big deal for the park, which delivered a real Olympic moment.

Think of the sports in which athletes trained their entire lives for the podium coming once every four years. Park was out of top competition for two months to recover from an injury, even with whispers in South Korea that she should give up her spot in the powerhouse country to another player.

Park then overtook the world No. 1 player to win the gold medal.

It’s a big deal for Sungjae Im and Siwo Kim, who could avoid compulsory military service in South Korea by winning an Olympic medal. Not even a green jacket can do that.

For so many men, it’s more of an honor than a priority. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as they play.


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