Paul McGinley, Ireland’s Olympic golf captain, is excited about the tournament in Rio and the chance to put the sport in the shop window...
What are your thoughts on the Olympic format?
I think it’s dynamic, it will evolve over time. I think it was necessary. In order to reintroduce golf into the Olympics, the view was taken that we needed to do it in the simplest way possible to hit the ground running, and that was to have a 72-hole tournament. I’d agree with that policy. It was about getting golf back in and trying to make it as smooth as possible. We’re all familiar with 72-hole events – they are the easiest ones to run and we want to make this reintroduction as simple as possible. I’d be in agreement with that. I’d like to think that post the Olympics they will sit down, and maybe when there’s a bit more time and a little bit after having the first edition out of the way, they will come up with some ideas about evolving and making it a little bit more interesting.
Do you think it should be for amateurs or are you happy professionals are competing?
I’m happy it’s professionals. There aren’t many sports in the Olympics, if any, that don’t have the very best people in their field representing, whether it be tennis or running. I think the idea of having amateurs – would it showcase the game well enough? Would it bring enough interest? Enough media interest? Probably not. Part of being involved in the Olympics, the biggest sports event in the world, is to showcase your very best players and for them to put on a good show. We need people around the world to see the very best golfers competing.
Where would a Gold Medal rank against the Major Championships?
I don’t think you can put it in the same bracket as the Major Championships. It may evolve towards that in years to come, but at this moment in time, I wouldn’t think it’s anywhere near. Golf doesn’t have the history in the Olympics and I think it’s quite clear that it’s not on the same level as winning a Major. Having said that, there must be a great thrill in winning a Gold Medal for your country.
What’s the course like and what can we expect scoring to be?
It’s a windswept golf course with a linksy feel and a lot of run-off areas. It’s something similar to what you’d see in the sandbelts of Australia, the links courses in the UK or something around the Carolinas that you’d see in America. It’s a golf course that a lot of players will be familiar with and it’s got a good feel to it. It’s a good design.
Are you disappointed how things have shaped up with the withdrawals?
The players are pulling out for their own personal reasons, and when they give a personal reason, that’s the end of the conversation as far as I’m concerned. It’s not for me to have an input after that. I think there’s been a bit of a reluctance from everybody to embrace the Olympics in the way I think they should – it’s the biggest sporting event in the world.
We’re trying to grow the game in various different ways through social media, new initiatives on the European Tour, new tournaments, player branding etc. All these things are going on and I think we should be embracing golf as an Olympic sport and we should all be in it together saying yes, this is a chance to really propel the game forward. We’re getting a shop window to really showcase the game and we should be embracing that and driving the game forward.
We’ll put on a great show – I have no doubt about that. We’re going to have a fantastic winner and the field is very strong. For all the talk of withdrawals, eight of the world’s top 15 players will be competing in Rio.