Golf in the Olympics got plenty of criticism before the games started. Many people believed the sport didn’t belong for a number of reasons. I was one of those people. I’m admitting now that I was clearly wrong. Golf in the Olympics was a success in many ways. The final hour ratings exceeded expectations. In fact, they were so good that they were better than the U.S. Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship, all of which had exciting finishes in their own way. That is pretty impressive. Of course some of the ratings success could be that viewers who were watching whatever was on NBC before Olympic golf coverage began just continued watching during and after, but the fact is, they watched.
Not everyone is still on board with golf in the Olympics though. Even after Rory McIlroy took shots at Olympic golf by saying he would watch, “the sports that matter,” he still admitted to watching at least the finish and congratulated Justin Rose on winning gold. Unlike McIlroy, 2015 Open Champion Zach Johnson is still firmly on the side of the golf not being in the Olympics.
After a practice round at Bethpage Black before the start of The Barclays, Johnson spoke to the media (via New York Post) and was asked about the Olympics.
“Oh, I didn’t watch golf. I’d rather watch the sports that should be in the Olympics. I’d rather watch the athletes who train for four years for that one week. I’d rather watch swimming and diving, track and field — the athletes that are relevant for one week. All of our [golf] athletes are relevant 24-7, 365. I just don’t see the need for golf to be in the Olympics. Same thing with basketball. It’s relevant all the time. LeBron James, Kevin Durant? They’re relevant all the time.”
That’s pretty much as scorching hot it gets, but Johnson wasn’t done.
“Make it a team format and give amateurs and college players, who don’t have the relevancy [pros do] a chance. That would have been more interesting. For those guys who played, any time you can represent your country, it’s a pretty awesome endeavor. But we have so much international golf as it is. And the fact that it put a kink in our schedule this year irritates me. To mess with the four tournaments that matter most [the majors] because you’re at the Olympics, I’ve got a strong, strong disdain for that.”
Look, I get it, there are many sports that are purely Olympic sports and most of the country doesn’t care about them until they roll around and are forced down our throats for two weeks by every media outlet, including this one, in the country. There are also American sports that aren’t purely Olympic sports that are enjoyed around the world, basketball is one and golf is another. As Johnson himself stated, both sports are played in many countries and therefore many people will watch them because many people actually care about them and the athletes competing in them.
Johnson’s biggest issue is that the Olympics disrupt the golf schedule. That’s understandable considering the history behind every major championship, but the summer Olympics only happen every four years, so in 2020 when Johnson is 44 years old, if he wants to complain that’s fine. It’s very likely he won’t be contending for majors, although not beyond belief considering what Phil just did at The Open, therefore he shouldn’t care as much.
From my end, I look forward to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I think the top guys who didn’t go this year will likely reconsider and commit to the games.