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  • Alistair Tait

Cash must be king for Dustin Johnson


Maybe Dustin Johnson should have a wee chat with Padraig Harrington. The world number one might just change his mind about skipping the Olympic Games.


Maybe the world number one should talk to Siddikur Rahman.


Johnson has confirmed he won’t play in this year’s Olympic Games, just as he didn’t play five years ago. He joins Webb Simpson in turning his nose up at trying to win Olympic Gold, citing scheduling issues.


And so it starts. Wonder who’ll be the next big star to say no to Tokyo.

"It's right in the middle of a big stretch of golf for me,” Johnson said. “It's a long way to travel, and I think the WGC (World Golf Championship event) is the week right after it. The British is a couple weeks before.
"It's a lot of traveling at a time where it's important to feel like I'm focused playing on the PGA Tour.”

Money is obviously far more important to Dustin Johnson than an Olympic Gold medal. Maybe the reason he can’t make the trip to Tokyo is because he needs to be at home counting his huge stash of cash.


For this is the same Dustin Johnson who turned up in Saudi Arabia this year for a reported $2 million appearance fee. It was Johnson’s third time taking Saudi lucre. He’s played in all three Saudi Internationals since it began in 2019. The same Dustin Johnson began his 2019 season in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, also for a seven-figure cheque.


Seems Johnson only does “a lot of travelling” when he’s guaranteed appearance money.


Players are quite entitled to pick and choose where they play and, yes, it’s a crowded schedule, but isn’t it every year? The men’s golf tournament in this year’s Games starts 11 days after the Open Championship, and 18 days before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Surely Johnson isn’t saying a WGC tournament is far more important than winning an Olympic gold medal? Really? There are four WGC tournaments a year, and Johnson’s already won six in his career.


Harrington was among those players to lap up every Olympic experience possible in Rio de Janeiro. He didn’t just do the usual tour pro thing of flitting back and forth between hotel and golf course. The three-time major winner went to a different sporting every night during the golf competition. He stayed an extra week and took his family to another 10 events.


The Dubliner took his place in Rio after Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell turned down the chance to represent Ireland. Harrington was only too glad to partner Seamus Power. He realised it was probably his only chance to play in the Olympic Games.

“You just don’t where you are going to be in four years’ time or eight years’ time, or whether golf will be in the Olympics in eight years’ time. So this is maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lot of people.”

And Rahman? The 31-year-old Bangladeshi was a rags to riches story compared to the other stars he played alongside in Brazil. His life began in a poor neighbourhood of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. He began his working life as a caddie, earning 12 cents a round. Yet he turned up in Rio even though there was no prize money.

“Golf in Bangladesh was only for rich people. I wanted to play but couldn’t afford clubs,” he said. “So I bought this old 7-iron head for about 50 cents. I got a metal pole. I took them to a welding shop and made my club. I used it for everything – long shots, chipping, pitching, putting, bunkers, high shots, low shots. It taught me to be creative.”

Like Harrington, Rahman happily grasped his one in a life time opportunity with both hands. No wonder he was bursting with pride in Rio.

“I still remember those old days as a caddie,” he admitted. “Every time I have success, I look back to those days and think how lucky I am.
“I feel proud that one day I didn’t even have a golf club, then just one old one and now I make history by being the first Bangladeshi to qualify for the Olympics.”

Still, I’m sure Johnson will have a fantastic experience in Memphis, Tennessee, for the WGC–FedEx St Jude Invitational. He has $1.82 million reasons to turn up there. That’s the first-place cheque. He clearly needs the money more than a silly gold medal.


#JustSaying: “This is an awfully big deal. Everybody here is loving it. This is an experience that will never be able to be taken away from us, a fantastic experience.” Padraig Harrington on the 2016 Olympics

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9 Comments


Robopz
Robopz
Mar 16, 2021

Sure DJ has already won a FedEx Cup. But don't see how that equates to he shouldn't want to win another and give himself the best chance to do so.


But I certainly agree with all your reasons why all should play. And again I want them to. Hope we can get all this sorted in a way to make Paris can't miss. But IMO the only way that's going to happen is if the PGA tour makes it easier on their players to do so.


One thing that might help is to move the 2024 Open Championship to the week before the Paris Olympics with the men's Olympic golf played the first week. That gets all the top players…


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ajt
Mar 15, 2021

Golf federations can now apply for government funding for golf they didn't previously get precisely because golf is now an Olympic sport. I've spoken to many federation heads over the years who wanted golf in the games for this very reason. That means money for practice facilities, public courses, coaching, and programmes to entice young people to take up the game. Tennis benefitted from this when it became an Olympic sport.

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pcroppo
Mar 14, 2021

Interesting perspectives Alistair by you & comments so far - my take is that it indeed is all about the money. But not the way it has been proposed. The essential ingredient of the discussion is that the Olympics have historically been for Amateurs. Simply stated, we have seen many reasons made to change the very soul of the competition so as to allow non- amateurs to compete.

Let's not waste our time with all the 'whyfors'. While I don't believe DJ is being altruistic even for a second, let's just accept he's doing it for the $$$$ - which is exactly why they shouldn't be competing with the Amateurs at the Olympics.

Period. End of rant.......

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pcroppo
Mar 15, 2021
Replying to

And not to be rude Alistair, but please tell me something I didn't already know. The fact the pros have taken over the Games does not mean it can't be reversed & like you said elsewhere, golf may only have a 2 time window of invitation. Your thot tho' that it is the pros that drive the game into countries which don't have much golf motivation is interesting but is it via the Olympics they do this??? Is your inference based on the idea that the pros will drive TV viewers which will drive more ad dollars to the Olympic Committees - you may be right there but I'd still question how that rises the interest of golf i…

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Robopz
Robopz
Mar 14, 2021

PS... Just had a thought. Canadian Open has been canceled. At the PGAT could move WGC Memphis to the week pre US Open... It makes the Olympic option way easier for the PGAT players..

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ajt
Mar 15, 2021
Replying to

Pretty sue the PGAT couldn't care less about the Olympics.....

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Robopz
Robopz
Mar 14, 2021

I get where you are coming from Alistair, and I too wish every single eligible player would play in the Olympics.


However, I see this Olympic situation as a battle between EMOTION & PRACTICALITY.


Problem is it's OUR emotion (fans/media) vs THEIR (PGAT players) practicality.


I don't see any comparative relevance of players taking Middle East appearance fees 6 months before the Olympics. (Although Saudi is a legitimate separate issue). I see the issues as scheduling, PGAT subverting Olympic participation via the FedEx Cup (unintentional though it may be), and the PGAT not giving the Olympics their deserved status.


At issue is not just the purse for WGC the week after the Olympic games, it's the FedEx points on offer.…


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ajt
Mar 15, 2021
Replying to

DJ has already won the FedEx Cup. As for Paris, there might not be golf in the Games in 2024. Pretty sure the IOC gave golf a two-time deal with a review to follow. Given that so many of the top men bailed last time and could do so again this time, there might not be a golf competition in 2024. As if I've previously written, Olympic recognition means funding for nations with very little golf history. So much for the top male stars helping to grow the game.

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