Jordan Spieth is the latest top golfer to announce he will not compete at the Summer Olympics next month in Rio.
The world No. 2 had been previously undecided on the Olympics, but on Monday ahead of the British Open at Royal Troon he announced that he will not compete. With under a month until the Opening Ceremonies, the golfers representing Team USA will be Ricky Fowler, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, and Matt Kuchar.
Along with Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Adam Scott have all opted out of the Olympics. That means Watson will be the highest-ranked golfer in the event:
Many golfers have cited the Zika virus as the reason for their withdrawal, but Zika is not the only reason for the limited field. As Adam Scott put it rather bluntly, “Just having another 72-hole golf tournament with a weaker-than-most field doesn’t really pique my interest.”
With the Olympics and the Ryder Cup on the schedule this summer, the golf calendar is much more packed than usual this year. When golf was accepted as an Olympic sport ahead of Rio, the IOC said that it was included in order to help grow the sport internationally. As such, the International Golf Federation structured the event so that it accommodated a wide range of countries around the world. That is all well and good, and in the spirit of the Olympic Games, except that many of the elite players come from the same handful of countries.
In other words, the competition will be weak, and because it’s the Olympics, there’s little money to be played for. All of that, combined with the worries about Zika, explain why the best golfers are bailing.
It’s a shame — golf’s return to the Olympics will be an underwhelming one. But perhaps it will force the IOC to reconsider the qualification process, and — more importantly — the format. Rather than another four-day tournament of stroke play, something more team-based, like best ball or four-ball match play, would be a good first step in making the event more enticing.
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