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MARTIN VOUSDEN ON THE RIO OLYMPICS

Aug 18 2016

Aug 15, 2016 Posted in Golf NewsGolf QuotesMartin Vousden by 

Thought for the Day
Saying someone is ugly doesn’t make you any prettier

Here comes the Cavalry
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson (along with the women golfers of the world) may have just saved golf as an Olympic sport. By fashioning another head-to-head clash of increasing drama – and after The Open Henrik now stands at won one, lost one – they made the battle for the men’s gold medal almost unbearably exciting. Matching each other stroke for stroke, two of the best in the world produced the kind of gladiatorial combat for which the Olympics is renowned.

GoKart Electric Golf Trolley

With the greatest respect, had the title been taken by a relatively unknown golfer, like Thomas Pieters of Belgium or Australia’s Marcus Fraser, who finished 4th and tied-5th respectively, in two months time no-one would remember the result. But because the pre-tournament favourites did that rare thing of living up to their billing, Rose and Stenson have ensured that this gold medal scrap will not be forgotten for some while yet.

The build-up to Rio was dominated by the no-shows, as many of the world’s best golfers decided that Brasil was not somewhere they wanted to be in August. They included, of course, the top-four ranked players in the world – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, and the Northern Irishman added to the controversy with a petulant press conference at The Open. He said he probably wouldn’t be watching the golf but ‘stuff that matters’ such as track and field, swimming and diving. He was rightly criticised but a little perspective is needed here.

For almost two years Rory has been fielding questions about the Olympics – would he represent Ireland or Great Britain, for example if he took part. And then relentless interrogation about his reasons for opting not to go. What he, we and the world and its dog knows is that for golfers a gold medal will never have the same importance as a major. Andy Murray now has two of them but ask him whether he would rather lose those or his Wimbledon title he wouldn’t have to think too hard. Tennis players, like golfers, build their season and career around four grand slam events. That’s the way it has been for our sport since the era of Jack Nicklaus and it’s not going to change any time soon.

Rory’s mistake, at a moment of obvious frustration, was to say aloud what many of his compatriots were thinking. He and they cited the possibility of catching the Zika virus as the reason for their change of heart. And while this may indeed have been the case, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that the odds of a visitor to Brazil in August catching the virus were 500,000 to 1. This implies one of two things. Either the golfers concerned think that they are spectacularly unlucky and those astronomical odds represented a real threat to their health and happiness. Or, they didn’t believe the figure and had access to more reliable information than that supplied by the WHO.

Alternatively, they’re a bunch of wimps, scared to cross the road in case they get hit by a bus. This more cynical interpretation is supported at least a little by the fact that only one woman golfer, Lee-Anne Pace, pulled out, so it seems the women golfers of the world are made of sterner stuff than their male counterparts.

Does it really matter if many of the world’s best golfers were not in Rio? For superstar, super-rich golfers, who are used to being paid handsomely for their time and are therefore loathe to play for nothing, probably not. But the reason the R&A and other governing bodies around the world lobbied so hard for golf to return to the Olympic fold was in order to help the game grow and develop in those parts of the planet where it is not a big deal. To do this you need money and that will either come from your government or the national Olympic committee. Sadly, with so many big names deciding on a no-show, the tournament in Rio could have been a pale shadow and you can imagine that the International Olympic Committee will have serious discussions about whether golf can remain an Olympic sport beyond 2016.

Justin and Henrik are to be congratulated for making that decision more likely to opt for golf to remain and let’s hope that the women can put on an equally enthralling contest.

Sound and fury
One notable omission from the BBC’s otherwise professional coverage of the Olympics was that of familiar voices in the commentary box for the golf. The excellent Andrew Cotter is in Rio (or at least he was because he hosted coverage of the opening ceremony alongside the equally first-rate Hazel Irvine) but didn’t have a word to say on the golf course. Other familiar names and voices, such as Peter Alliss, Ken Brown and Sam Torrance were also absent. Does this mean, now that the Beeb has lost all golf coverage throughout the year that these experienced broadcasters have now been cast into the wilderness?

This year the corporation has sent 455 accredited staff to Rio but that represents a 40% drop compared to London 2012, not surprising considering all the additional costs of an overseas games. In view of this, the Beeb obviously decided to use a few jack-of-all-trades at the microphone, which, as it’s our money being spent, I find it difficult to argue against.

Quote of the Week
The best stroked putt in a lifetime does not bring the aesthetic satisfaction of a perfectly hit wood or iron shot. There is nothing to match the whoosh and soar, the almost magical flight of a beautifully hit drive or 5-iron
Al Barkow

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