- Alistair Tait
No Excuses For Paris Olympics
Hopefully the Olympic golf stayaways watched the playoff for the bronze medal from the Tokyo Games and had a rethink. Did they register the disappointment etched on Rory McIlroy’s face when his birdie putt slipped past the hole and his hopes of an Olympic medal slipped away too?
Maybe they’ll heed the words of Paul Casey, who was eliminated from the seven-man playoff for bronze at the first hole along with Hideki Matsuyama. Casey said:
"The golfers that passed on it, I've got no words for them, all I would say is that I think representing your country is the greatest thing can you do."
Well said Paul Casey.
They should talk to McIlroy. He turned his nose up at the Rio Games, only to leave Tokyo with this statement:
"I've never tried so hard in my life to finish third, but it's been a great experience. Today was great day to be up there in contention for a medal, certainly had a different feeling to it than I expected.
"It makes me even more determined going to Paris and try to pick one (a medal) up. It's disappointing going away from here without any hardware."
Perhaps they should have a wee blether with Tommy Fleetwood. All you had to do was look at his Twitter feed to see how excited he was to become an Olympic athlete.
The celebrations which greeted CT Pan taking the bronze after that seven-man playoff looked like those that would have ensued had he won a major championship. Pan might never get his hands on a major trophy, but he’ll have an Olympic bronze medal to show his grandkids when he’s in his dotage, just as Xander Schauffle and Rory Sabbatini (pictured) will be able to haul out gold and silver medals when the grandkids ask: “What did you do in the Olympics, Grandad?”
Schauffle has been touted as a major champion in waiting for a few years. He has lots of time to join the major club, but there are no guarantees. That gold medal might be his greatest achievement in golf. He’ll be glad he made the trip to Tokyo if that turns out to be the case.
At 45, Sabbatini’s chances of major glory are probably long gone. The South African-born Slovakian has six PGA Tour wins, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he comes to view his Olympic silver medal as the pinnacle of his career in gowf. It will certainly be highly valued in Slovakia. Rest assured Sabbatini will wear the medal with pride, and use it to inspire future golfers in his adopted homeland.
“We started this journey, four, five years ago, getting naturalized in Slovakia and designating them as my representation, but the sole purpose of it was to generate future generations of Slovak golfers,” Sabbatini said. "It’s not exactly the prime sport for kids to grow up want to go play in Slovakia, so hopefully we can inspire future Olympians and future professionals.”
There is an obvious caveat to participation in this year’s Olympic Games. Covid-19 and the resultant logistics and travel restrictions make it hard to criticise players who didn’t partake. I made that clear in a blog earlier this month. No criticism from me about Charley Hull and Georgia Hall who turned the chance to represent Team GB in Tokyo.
However, it seems fairly obvious in the case of other players – Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen, for example – that the Olympics just doesn’t turn their cranks. Both skipped the Rio Olympics too, so it was no surprise when they opted out of Tokyo.
There should be no excuses for Paris three years from now. Let’s hope those who skipped Rio and Tokyo do a bit of soul searching, consult widely and make a commitment to the next Olympics. As Justin Rose said recently:
“Ultimately it will be up to the players to decide how important the Olympics is in golf.”
Let’s hope the refuseniks arrive at the same conclusion. They should have no excuses for Paris.
#JustSaying: “When guests come over to the house, they want to see my gold medal first and my (2013) US Open trophy second.” Justin Rose