Golf’s return to Olympics will be a hit even without Rory McIlroy, says Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods predicted golf’s return to the Olympics will be a hit even without Rory McIlroy and other top stars and lamented the messy penalty issue at the US Open.
Speaking on the eve of his charity foundation’s US PGA event at Congressional Country Club, the 14-time major champion, whose recovery from back surgery has kept him off the tour for nearly 11 months, weighed in on the sport’s latest issues.
Just hours earlier, world number four Rory McIlroy said he would not compete at the Rio Olympics, when golf returns after a 112-year absence, because of health concerns over the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects and severe illness.
McIlroy joined an absentee list for Brazil that includes world number eight Adam Scott of Australia, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Fiji’s Vijay Singh and Aussie Marc Leishman.
In addition, top-ranked Jason Day, number two Jordan Spieth and sixth-ranked Rickie Fowler have said they are still looking at what conditions will be like in Rio.
“It will be a spectacular event just because it’s the Olympics,” Woods said. “It would be better if we had a more top-heavy field.”
Woods said he would have preferred a top-50 lineup rather than up to four players for a nation from the top 15 and no more than two players for any country beyond that.
“I know they have to try to have each country participate, but I just wish they would have had more quality of a field similar to what we face in major championships or the World Golf Championships or the Players,” Woods said.
“I think the Olympics deserve that.”
But Woods said he understood the idea of growing the sport and lesser-ranked players in the field, giving non-dominant golf nations a chance to cheer heroes as well.
“To have players that aren’t ranked very high still being able to compete in the Olympics, I think it’s great for Brazil,” he said.
Olympic teams will be set based on world rankings two weeks from Monday, with only 20 of the world’s current top 50 set to compete. The lowest ranked player in the field of 60 would be Italy’s Nino Bertasio at 332, with 26 players from outside the top 100.
Woods watched on television as Dustin Johnson won the US Open last Sunday despite being told on the 12th tee he might be assessed a penalty for a ball movement issue on the fifth green.
“It was frustrating to watch how it was handled,” Woods said. “That being our national championship and the history behind it, it deserved a better handling of the situation.
“If you have a rules official there, I thought it was binding, his decision. I just didn’t understand how they can say that we’re going to take you in, we may or may not assess you a penalty, you still have six holes to go. I just don’t see how that was appropriate.”
Woods was as upset for the contenders having to guess at whether they needed to gamble or play safely on certain holes as US Golf Association officials botched their chance to get the call correct and timely, something for which they later apologised.
“No one understood where they were in the tournament so that determines what you are going to do. Am I going to challenge the flag? Am I going to play conservative? So much depends on scenarios and where you stand to dictate how you play,” Woods said.
“I just saw guys were making a lot of mistakes coming in. I think it was because it became such an unnerving situation. It just wasn’t fair to anyone.
“It was awful. DJ didn’t know how he stood. The rest of the guys didn’t know what was going on. No one had a clue. Am I one ahead, am I tied, am I down by one?
“I’m a little bit feistier than Dustin, so I think I probably would have said a few more things during the round.”