POSTED: April 20th 2016
NewsUpdate

NEIL WILSON: Will Olympic golf ever be its fifth Major?


THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Imagine Mo Farah announcing that he would not be going to Rio because for family and scheduling reasons. "Too busy," he would say.

Not possible, of course. Those who dream of winning Olympic golf would cut off a foot before skipping the Games.

But giving it a miss is precisely what Adam Scott, the world's seventh ranked golfer, did this week in the most telling commentary on the return of the sport to the Olympic Games.

Scott had long hinted at an indifference to the Olympics. Only the four Majors mattered, he said. The Olympics was just another tournament.

He is the first to formally decline the invitation that would have been his right as one of the top 15 ranked but Vijay Singh, former world number one, said he would have declined to compete for Fiji had he still been eligible by ranking.

I have written before of my opposition to golf as an Olympic sport; indeed, of my opposition to any sport which does not regard the Olympics as its premier event. So rugby union, tennis and football would all fail on my criteria.

The simple reason the IOC wants them is commercial. Television and sponsors like them. So the Games accept a bastardised form of rugby, an age-restricted football tournament and others which few players ever dreamed in their childhood of wishing to win.

Officially, golf has not been part of the Olympic programme since 1904. Two few nations entered on the occasions it was in the Games, so it was dropped.

There was one other occasion, I have been reading as Scott's decision was announced. It was in 1936, a golf tournament sponsored by Hitler himself as an unofficial addition to the Berlin Games, a sort of  exhibition event.

A book entitled The Hitler Trophy, golf and the Olympic Games, written by British golf writer Alan Fraser and published in the UK next month, tells the fascinating tale of The Great Golf Prize of Nations, a 72-hole, two-man tournament held in Germany 10 days after the Berlin Games.

The Fuhrer's name was on the silver gilt salver to be presented to the winners with the expectation that he would present it at the end of a triumphant year for German sport that began with the Winter Olympics in Bavaria six months earlier.

The story goes that Hitler, alerted by his Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop that a German pair were leading after three rounds,  was on his way to the course in Baden Baden to present the prize when he was informed that the Germans had slumped to third place, with an English pair now winning. His chauffeur was instructed to turn back and a representative handed over the salver.

Fact or fiction Fraser's book may reveal. Whether Hitler declined to award an Olympic gold to Jesse Owen is still as much in dispute.

Not in dispute is that after The Open ends on July 17 and the USPGA on July 31, golf returns to the Olympics on August 11. What Scott clearly doubts is that it will ever be seen as the fifth Major.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.


Keywords · Olympics · Golf · Neil WIlson


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