Golf has secured its spot in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, having made its way back into the competition's lineup for the first time in a whopping 112 years. It's only been part of the games twice before — once in the 1900 Paris Olympics and again in 1904 in St. Louis, for what initially looked like the final time for the sport. But golf's back in full swing for the Olympics this year, promising to draw in top talent for a shot at the gold.
There is only one problem with that promise, however — many of the greatest players in golf from around the world will not be present at this year's games. Nevertheless, the Olympics' official website attempts to bring in viewers with this blurb: "In Rio, the world's best golfers will be part of the Olympic Games for the first time in more than a century, and the lure of a gold medal is sure to attract the sport's biggest names."
For many in the golf world, however, this just doesn't seem to be true. BBC Sport points out that golf's top four players — Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Dustin Johnson — will all be absent from the course when the Olympics begin next month. McIlroy even plans on skipping out on watching Olympic golf altogether, saying he would prefers "track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters."
Why is there a division between Olympic interest in the sport and some of its best players? Reuters speculates that it could have to do with the timing of the games, which fall directly after the Open Championship (also known as the British Open) and the PGA Championship, two of the four major tournaments for golf. McIIroy told reporters at the Open de France tournament back in June that the Olympics simply aren't a priority for most golfers, referencing the sport's four major yearly championships:
Most other athletes dream their whole lives of competing in the Olympics, winning an Olympic gold, and we haven't. We dream of winning Claret Jugs and we dream of winning green jackets [at Augusta National]. I've said to people I have four Olympic Games a year. That's my pinnacle. That's what I play for. That's what I'll be remembered for.
Other top golfers have withdrawn from the games due to the risks associated with the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness that has plagued Brazil in the months leading up to the Olympics. Though the World Health Organization said athletes are at a low risk, concerns over the illness has still caused some golfers backing out.
As it stands, golf will still be a part of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but it will be interesting to see if players' unwillingness to participate in this year's games have any long-term effects on the sport's Olympic future.