Friday, October 09, 2009

Golf wins by getting a spot in the Olympics

Golf officially became an Olympic sport -- again -- today and the game is better for it.

Not because Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Camilo Villegas might win a gold medal in Rio in 2016 but because the game got bigger through its inclusion in the Olympics.

Winning an Olympic gold will be meaningful for whomever does it (I'm betting Tiger though he'll 40 by then) but it won't replace winning a green jacket or the claret jug. The point of getting golf back in the Olympics -- it was in briefly nearly a century ago -- is to expand the game's global appeal.

We've already begun to see the impact of golf in China, where there's a course-building boom going on, keeping some high-profile course designers in work at the moment. We've seen the success South Korean golfers have had on the LPGA Tour and in Y.E. Yang at the PGA Championship.

Angel Cabrera and Villegas are huge figures in South America and the run-up to the Rio Olympics should fuel the golf rush there.

There are still questions to be answered about the Olympic golf format but that will be worked out soon enough. By landing a spot in the Olympics, golf has received a needed boost, introducing it people who might not otherwise pay attention to the game.

The Olympics are still primarily about swimmers, track and field athletes and others whose sport stands in the spotlight only once every four years. Golf won't own the show in the Olympics any more than tennis does but it's now part of the Games.

Wonder how a gold medal would look with a green jacket?