x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Olympic gold will be the most important title in golf

Rio 2016 will provide Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and company with the most unique experience of their professional careers; a chance to join the Canadian George Lyon, gold medallist at St Louis in 1904, in the annals of Olympics history, writes John McAuley

Rio 2016 gives Tiger Woods the chance to do something Jack Nicklaus never did – win an Olympic gold medal in golf.
Rio 2016 gives Tiger Woods the chance to do something Jack Nicklaus never did – win an Olympic gold medal in golf.

 

The Olympic torch was extinguished in London on Sunday night, but events in the English capital during the Games will have stoked the fires of golf's professionals.

When Rio opens its doors in 2016 to the giant jamboree that is the Summer Games, there could be a 27 year old Rory McIlroy going for gold for Ireland with the Great Britain team - given the former's recent prolificacy in majors, don't be surprised to see him sporting emerald green - or a tearful Tiger Woods, 40, belting out The Star-Spangled Banner.

Perhaps a tad fanciful ... however, becoming Olympic champion will matter. Golf is back on the programme after a 112-year absence, yet some question where winning gold would rank among today's stars, when for Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps it represents the pinnacle in their respective sports. Surely not above a Claret Jug or a Green Jacket?

Needing to justify golf's place at the Olympics misses the point: Rio 2016 will provide McIlroy, Woods and company with the most unique experience of their professional careers; a chance to join the Canadian George Lyon, gold medallist at St Louis in 1904, in the annals of Olympics history. "In time the Olympic gold will become the most important event in golf," said Padraig Harrington. "In the four years between Olympics there will be 16 majors, so winning gold will be that much more special."

The torch has been passed to Rio.

The heroics of Bolt, or Mo Farah, or Chad le Clos, ensures the blue touch paper for Olympic golf has been lit.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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