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  • Alistair Tait

McIlroy Can Inspire New Golf Dreams

Rory McIlroy never stood over a putt as a child and thought this is to win an Olympic gold medal. Future generations might do just that, especially future generations of Irish youngsters if McIlroy can add a gold medal to the four major trophies he has in his trophy cabinet.

The former world number one is playing in this Olympic Games after missing out five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. McIlroy joined Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Jason Day and other big names on the side lines in 2016 when golf made its return to the Olympic family after a 112-year absence.

Justine Rose didn’t mind: the top stars’ absence it made it easier for him to get his hands on the gold medal. Henrik Stenson picked up silver while Matt Kuchar won bronze. Only time will tell where Rose’s gold medal ranks against his 2013 U.S. Open victory. One thing’s for sure: a bigger sporting audience will recognise the medal he picked up in Brazil more than the one he earned at Merion.

McIlroy enters this Olympic Games with an ambivalence all too familiar to some top golfers:

"I don't know what it would mean," said McIlroy about winning the gold medal. "I never dreamed of that. I dreamed of claret jugs and green jackets. I never dreamed of winning the Olympics, so I don't know what it would mean until you've actually got one."

Rory gave the impression following the Open Championship that he was travelling to Tokyo under duress:

"I am doing it because I think it is the right thing to do. I missed it last time, and for golf to be an Olympic sport, you need your best players there. I feel like I want to represent the game of golf more than anything else.''

So much for the fire that burns in every athlete when it comes to the Olympic Games.

McIlroy had a similar ambivalence to the Ryder Cup before he played in one, calling it “an exhibition.” All it took was one match and he was hooked. Safe to say McIlroy wouldn’t now dream of missing the Ryder Cup. Wonder how he'll feel about the 2024 Paris Games?

Still, well done to McIlroy for doing his bit to help grow the game by actually playing in the Olympics. Too bad others missing this week don’t see the bigger picture.

Fact is, Rory can help grow golf just by playing in the Games. He can inspire kids to add Olympic gold to their wish lists. Why wouldn’t they? In fact, why would any athlete pass up the chance to win an Olympic medal?

Many in golf think their game is all that matters. It isn’t. Golf is but a fringe sport in the grand scheme of things whether we like it or not.

Padraig Harrington put it best in 2016 when he compared an Olympic gold medal to a claret jug or a green jacket. He said at least 10 times more people around the world would know the significance of an Olympic medal compared to the claret jug or green jacket.

Rose has discovered that, as he revealed to Daily Telegraph golf correspondent James Corrigan:

“When guests come over to the house, they want to see my gold medal first and my US Open trophy second.”

China’s Shanshan Feng recently told Global Golf Post’s Lewine Mair that her bronze medal in the 2016 Olympic Games is held in higher esteem in her own country than winning the 2012 LPGA Championship or reaching the world number one spot.

Who knows, maybe one day youngsters in Ireland, and elsewhere, will stand on putting greens and think: “This is for the Olympic gold medal.”

#JustSaying: “The Olympics should be the best against the best in every sport. If golf is to thrive in the Games the finest need to be there. Ultimately it will be up to the players to decide how important the Olympics is in golf.” Justin Rose

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