Why the Pros are Saying No to Olympic Golf

Like presidential campaigns and celebrity marriages, Olympic golf is a story that changes every day. Just when we think the last name player has excused himself from his national team—Australia’s Jason Day being the latest, following on the heels of Rory McIlroy—someone else comes along. But try putting yourself in their cleated shoes and think about why a trip to Rio in August isn’t that compelling.

There’s the Zika scare, of course, with many men publicly worrying about its effects on their families, current and future. But none of the top women golfers—who certainly should be mindful of the possible health effects on their bodies and babies—have said they won’t play.

Instead, look at golf’s summer calendar: In a space of just a few weeks, the top players will head across the Atlantic for the Open Championship (July 14-17), to Canada for the Canadian Open (July 21–24), back to the U.S. for the PGA Championship (July 28–31), down to Rio (August 11–14), back to the U.S. for a few weeks before the FedEx Cup craziness starts in late August, and then, for the American and European players, the Ryder Cup at the end of September. That’s a lot of high-pressure golf—and travel—in just a few months, private planes or not.

Adam Scott—who was among the first players to bag Brazil—recently chimed in with another potential downer, the format for Olympic play: “Just having another 72-hole golf tournament with a weaker-than-most field doesn’t really pique my interest,” he said the other day before the start of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, which is, by the way, yet another tough tournament on a tough track in the heat of summer.

Need another reason? Everyone knows the Olympics are for glory rather than money, but honestly, many of the Tour pros have been there, done that: They can get their patriotic juices flowing at the Ryder and Presidents Cup every year or two, so perhaps the idea of battling for flag and country holds less appeal.

And if you think the calendar-changing and globe-traveling arguments are done, wait until 2020 when the Olympics will be in Japan from July 24–August 9. As a number of newspapers have put it, “It took golf 112 years to get back into the Olympics, but for how long?”

Photographs: Andy Altenburger, Mark Alberti, David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire