SYDNEY (Reuters) - Golf has no place in the Olympics and its inclusion is contributing to the dilution of the importance of the sport’s major championships, according to eight-times major winner Tom Watson.
The sport will return to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016, after last being played in 1904, and while its return has been lauded by players and officials alike, the 63-year-old Watson was not keen on it staying there.
“I don’t want to pour cold water on it but I don’t think it should be in the Olympic Games,” Watson told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney.
”I still think of Olympics as track and field and not golf, to be honest with you.
“We have our most important championships (the four major championships). You have golf in the Olympics. You have diluted the importance, in a sense, of the four major championships.”
Watson said he also had an idealistic belief about what the Olympics stood for and periodic doping scandals and innuendo about athletes had tainted his feelings.
“I probably had a pie in the sky way of looking at the Olympics as being clean and pure,” he said.
”I like to trust people and trust they are doing things for the right reasons.
“When the professionals go to the Olympics, they go for the wrong reasons ... I‘m probably talking like a dinosaur.”
Watson, who at 59 missed a seven-foot putt to win the 2009 British Open before he lost a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink, also felt the calendar meant several end-of-year tournaments were also being diluted.
“Our Tour is not being serviced enough by the top players,” added Watson, who has been paired with 2011 champion Greg Chalmers and promising local Jake Higginbotham for the first round of the A$1.25 million ($1.30 million) tournament that tees off on Thursday.
”We have six or seven tournaments at the end of the year. They were designated to be there and they are putting up $5 or $6 million but they are (considered) a secondary tournament.
”Add the World Golf Championships to the mix, the four majors, the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and all of a sudden you have 20 tournament that the top players have to play every year.
”You play 20 tournaments and you have 10 other tournaments to choose. But there are 30 other tournaments to choose from so 20 tournaments don’t get the top players.
“What I‘m saying is they make too many tournaments important and other tournaments are not getting a representative field.” ($1 = 0.9593 Australian dollars)
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Patrick Johnston