TORONTO, July 1 (Reuters) - The decision to add golf back to the Olympic programme was done primarily to promote the game on a global scale but it continues to be somewhat of a hesitant return given a number of top players have decided to pass on the Tokyo Games.
Golf returned to the Olympics at the 2016 Rio Games after a 112-year absence but it was marred somewhat as a number of high-profile players stayed away as they prioritised winning majors over a shot at a medal.
Because of the game’s lengthy absence from the Olympics it means that, unlike athletes in many other sports, golfers grew up dreaming of making the winning putt to clinch one of golf’s major championships as opposed to a gold medal.
Ahead of the Rio Olympics, several of the top men’s golfers cited the Zika virus as their reason for not attending despite having played events in other potential hotspots. For their part, most every top women’s player competed in Rio.
Fast forward five years and not much has changed as the global COVID-19 pandemic has offered some players a built-in excuse for not adding more miles to an already-busy travel schedule during a key stretch of the season.
Not helping matters is that some players have not been shy to say that winning major championships remains the pinnacle of the sport and, therefore, more of a priority than the Olympics.
World number one Dustin Johnson, Englishman Lee Westwood and Australian Adam Scott are among the high-profile names who have decided to skip the Tokyo Olympics, citing a condensed PGA Tour schedule or family commitments for their reasons.
“It’s right in the middle of a big stretch of golf for me,” Johnson said in March when he announced his decision to skip the Tokyo Olympics. “It’s a lot of travelling at a time where it’s important to feel like I’m focused playing on the PGA Tour.”
The July 29-Aug. 1 Olympic men’s competition begins 11 days after the final round of the British Open, the year’s last shot at major glory, and concludes two-and-a-half weeks before the start of the PGA Tour’s lucrative season-ending playoffs.
The women’s competition, which runs from Aug. 4-7, falls right in between a pair of majors: beginning 10 days after the Amundi Evian Championship in France and ending 12 days before the Women’s Open in Scotland. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto Editing by Christian Radnedge)