In August of 2016, Matt Kuchar shot a final round 63 (-8) to win the bronze medal in men’s golf at the Rio Olympics.
“That was an incredible moment,” said Andy Levinson, Executive Director of USA Golf. “And certainly made all Americans proud that day. But I would say that in addition to Matt, we had six other Olympians and every single one of them would say it was one of the greatest experiences of their lives.”
So much so for Rickie Fowler and for Lexi Thompson that they both got tattoos of the Olympic rings.
But what about the golfers who said ‘no’ to Rio? And there were many, including the top four golfers in the world: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
“There was a virus, ironically, that was around at the time,” said Levinson. “It was also a new thing. Golf at the highest levels, there are a number of goals that each golfer sets and at the time for all those golfers that was not one of them.”
Their goal was winning majors, not Olympic medals. And five years ago the Zika virus was a concern; in Tokyo, the concern is the coronavirus.
But golf does have an advantage in that area.
“We’re played across hundreds of acres, outdoors, where everyone can be socially distant at all times,” said Levinson. “We believe that the International Olympic Committee will take the right measures.
“And the tremendous success that the Olympic competition was, I don’t think that you would have many golfers elect to withdraw.”