Colin Montgomerie, who was part of the successful bid to restore golf to the Olympics, has questioned those opting not to appear at this year’s Games in Rio.
The Scot has also expressed fears over golf’s future at the event given the raft of withdrawals.
Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are among a group of high-profile men who have declared themselves unavailable. Scheduling issues and the Zika virus have both been offered as reasons. Only one woman player, the South African Lee-Anne Pace, has pulled out.
Montgomerie, who lobbied the International Olympic Committee prior to a successful vote for golf’s re-establishment in 2009, highlighted the disparity.
“It is a shame that a number of the top players have decided not to go,” he said. “If there was as many ladies not going, you might have thought that was OK. One lady has pulled out. How many men? There you go.
“So, to me, it is disappointing. There is no question. First time back in the Olympics since 1904 and we don’t show up. A bit disappointing, really.”
When pressed on the Zika issue, Montgomerie said: “I thought it was a disease that affected women more than it did men.”
The wider, key issue relates to whether or not golf can retain Olympic status beyond the current arrangement for 2016 and 2020. Montgomerie admitted to a worry over next year’s vote to extend its involvement. “Very much so,” the 53-year-old said. “The IOC will have a good look at this and think: ‘Hang on a minute, what’s happened here?’
“To suddenly find 300 new hotel rooms, to have to build a golf course; and the money that had to be spent to buy the land to build the course to all the stuff that goes on, it was multimillions they had to find. And then not show up? Of course if I was in charge, I’d have a second look at it. Of course you would.”
Needless to say, were Montgomerie’s star as high as during his earlier golfing life, he would have relished an Olympic appearance. “I’d have gone and I think Ernie Els has said the same thing,” he said. “He’s now up for qualification for South Africa [for whom three players have withdrawn]. I would be honoured to go. Having presented in front of the committee for golf to get into the Olympics, the least I could do is turn up.”
Sergio García feels the same way. The 36-year-old, who will qualify for Rio, stated on Wednesday that “representing Spain, trying to make golf grow and becoming an Olympian are too important. I’ll be at the Olympics”.
Montgomerie forms part of the field for the Scottish Open, which begins at Castle Stuart on Thursday. More surprising was the veteran’s progression through qualifying to earn a spot at next week’s Open Championship at Troon, his home club. “Certainly, it was quite a big deal to qualify,” he said. “I asked for an invite, which wasn’t forthcoming, so the only way was to try to qualify. This was the last opportunity to play an Open at Royal Troon, so it was a relief more than anything.
“Next week’s goal is to be there on Sunday. You have half the field making the cut. I would love to be in that top half. That’s the goal at the start of the week. If Thursday and Friday happen to go extremely well, that goal might be different. But at the start of the week, to be there on Sunday, no question. Back in the 90s I was going to the Open to win it and I used to come here thinking I could win the Scottish Open. That has changed, of course. You’ve got to be realistic and realise that if I finish in the top 10 here, it’s a hell of a performance.”
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