Gary Player should be listened to because he is Gary Player, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s right because he’s Gary Player.
The Black Knight spoke with admirable passion when he let loose on all of the WDs from next month’s Olympics in Rio in this interview with the Golf Channel.
Player, and he is far from being the only one to do this, is still focused on the Zika virus as the main cause of marquee names bowing out, but let’s face it, if Zika was the cause, you can bet there would be a mass bail-out from the women’s side as well because those of child-bearing age would have the most to lose.
Player isn’t the only one to zero in on Zika. In this column that appeared in the Hamilton Spectator, Christine Brennan of USA Today is in a snit about the male golfers WD-ing too.
Let’s get past the Zika thing, which is but a convenient excuse for players and a diversion from other factors that led to a situation in which golf has a very shaky Olympic future even before it makes its return after an absence of more than 100 years.
“It is obvious that this does not help the attractiveness of the golf competition,” said IOC president Thomas Bach in this story from the Guardian in the UK.
Well, Mr. Bach, I would suggest to you that the stories coming out of Rio does not help the attractiveness of the Olympics either and the Zika mask can only disguise it for so long.
In an uneasy world, the political and financial upheaval in Brazil, particularly in Rio, is a legitimate concern, especially given recent events in Nice, Paris and so many other locations that are too numerous to include them all here.
The skeeters that transmit the Zika virus, if there are any around, are the least of your concerns
Depending on who you believe, funding is in short supply, so security and policing could be lax. On one hand, we’re told in this story from the BBC that security measures are being reassessed after the recent world tragedies, especially with whispers of a planned terror attack on one team at the Olympics.
Still, Brazil says it’s confident in its preparations, but then you read elsewhere that the contract to hire and train security screeners was only awarded just a couple of weeks ago and went to a small company.
Of course, there’s a lot of speculation, but with an event the magnitude of the Olympics, there should be no doubt about security in the weeks leading up to the opening ceremonies.
Rightly or wrongly, that’s not the case pre-Rio and security is a legitimate consideration when making the call on whether to compete or not and the responsibility, and it’s a huge one, rests with the IOC and organizing committee.
Of course, golfers have been criticized as well for only being at the Olympics when they’re competing and not taking in the experience as athletes from other sports do. If that’s a criticism, I’m not sure why – it’s nature of the best at a peak time in the golf season.
Being peak season is a big part of the problem, as well, and the tours, particularly the PGA Tour, have only moved things around to make room for the Olympics, making it just another 72-hole stroke play event in a sea of majors, World Golf Championship events and the FedEx Cup, with the Ryder Cup right behind it.
So, if we can get past the skeeters, it isn’t just an issue with the players, with plenty of responsibility going to the IOC and the tours, at least on the men’s side.
Should golf be zapped from the games after 2020 in Tokyo based on all the WDs, or would that be overreacting to what is a major problem?
For one thing, Zika won’t be a concern in Tokyo or any Olympics beyond that and unless the IOC makes a bonehead move and puts the Olympics into an unstable country, then security shouldn’t be a major concern for players, either.
Excess is the reason the PGA Tour schedule, in particular, is so back-end loaded, but you can count on the tour not being willing to drop anything of consequence, so the logical move would be to transform golf into an amateur event.
Yet, it’s no secret that the IOC wanted Tiger Woods and other marquee players when it gave golf the green light back in 2009, so amateurs playing (a match play format would be best) is likely off the table, as well.
If professional players are only there to be names on the marquee, then why wouldn’t they just continue to do what they’re doing on the tour? On the other hand, many do welcome playing for their countries and certainly Canadians have embraced that aspect of the Olympics.
How much those players are appreciated for their enthusiasm will be evident not only in Rio, but also when the decision is made on golf’s future next year, but it needs to be a complete discussion.
It’s not only the players who are responsible for this debacle, even thought they’re taking most of the venom. The IOC’s expectations of golf, the PGA Tour’s actual commitment to the Olympics and any possible solution needs to be discussed constructively, instead of focusing on negativity.
Skeeters and the Zika virus will only cover up the real problems for so long.