Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
They’re all major champions and represent the top four golfers in the latest world rankings. They’re also missing next month’s Summer Olympics, citing the Zika virus that’s engulfed Brazil.
In the long run, the four who are skipping the Olympic Games will regret the decision.
Wait just a second before spitting fire on how devastating the Zika virus is and it shouldn’t be taken lightly to hear us out.
The claim from each is the health concerns over potentially contracting the mosquito-borne virus, which is linked to birth defects in newborns in addition to other health issues, as they begin their own families or add to their existing one.
None have any reason to lie, nor should there be any accusing of such. However, it’s hard to believe it’s 100 percent genuine. It’s a scapegoat excuse as there are more viable reasons for why these four — and the 21 total men in the world that were picked — are choosing not to play in golf’s return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence.
The schedule and the prize money. The PGA Tour season is a busy one already, and the schedule got even tighter in this Olympic year as the PGA Championship, which is historically contested in August, was bumped up to next week. That was due to the Olympics happening in August, and it wasn’t like the PGA Championship would get moved to after the Olympics because of the FedEx Cup.
As a byproduct, players are swamped with the British Open and then two weeks later competing in golf’s fourth major before they’re expected to fly to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics and return for the FedEx Cup stretch run.
Also, there’s no prize money — in keeping with the amateur essence of the Olympic creation — attached to the event. Earlier this month, Carlos Nuzman, head of the Rio organizing committee, told the Associated Press that the golfers “tried to blame Zika, but the media have shown that they are not coming because there’s no prize money.”
The men’s game produces much more cash than the women’s game, with 82 players earning more than a million so far this season on the PGA Tour, compared with just six women cracking that threshold thus far on the LPGA Tour. Let’s not forget about sponsorships, which earn pros more dollars.
Yet only one female golfer has declined participation at the Olympics over the Zika virus. Only one of the top 10 ranked players in the world on the women’s side aren’t competing, due to the restriction of four players per country (South Korea occupies five of the top 10 rankings in women’s golf), while the men see only eight of the top 20 participating.
It’s a decision that the top four will regret.
Sure, the Zika virus has serious consequences with birth defects. But it’s not the first time there’s been a threat clouding over the Olympic Games. There have been boycotts over political reasons between nations planning on competing. And heck, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in track and field at the 1936 Berlin Olympics as Germany was ruled by the Nazis ahead of World War II. There was severe danger there, yet Owens participated.
Of course, there’s plenty of other opportunities for golfers than track stars to showcase their talents. Golfers have more important events on the schedule such as the four majors and even have a non-individual tournament that brings out the pride of representing your nation (i.e., the Ryder Cup or President’s Cup).
Golf’s future at the Olympics and at Tokyo in 2020 hangs in the balance until voting takes place next year. If it goes away again, due to the lack of top stars arriving this time around, all four of the top male players will regret their decision in time.
There’s nobody alive in the world with an Olympic gold medal in golf. The scheduling, fighting for a tour card, the virus or prize money are the reasons spouted about missing it.
But let’s face it, there’s no price for a gold medal. And that’s enough to regret.