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As golf makes pitch for Olympic inclusion, does it belong in Summer Games?

Golf is being considered for an Olympic sport for the 2016 Summer Games. But should a discipline that already has four major championships plus the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup in alternate years be on the Olympic calendar?


Not only would the logistics of scheduling such an event boggle the mind, but what format would an Olympic golf tournament take? Match play? Medal play? Two-man teams? Plus, how many players from each country would be invited? And would the biggest stars even show up?


Then again, wouldn't golfers -- like many other athletes -- like to represent their countries on the biggest sporting stage the world has to offer?


These are just a few of the questions our experts ponder as they share their opinions in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

Bob Harig, golf writer, ESPN.com: FICTION.
The fact that several organizations (including the PGA Tour, R&A, USGA, LPGA and Augusta National) have come together in a unified effort to get golf included in the 2016 Olympic Games is an impressive achievement in itself. And if they pull it off, they are to be congratulated.


But that doesn't mean golf should be in the Olympics. There is a simple litmus test to determine whether a sport is of Olympic caliber: Does winning a gold medal trump anything else an athlete can do?


In golf, the answer is quite obviously no. You would be hard pressed to get a single player to say he would rather win at the Olympics than capture one of the four major championships. Let's face it; those four tournaments are golf's Olympics. They are for players from all around the world, with numerous countries represented. True, the players do not show up to represent their countries, but these tournaments are the most important events.


There are several logistical hurdles as well. How would you alter the current schedule? If golf were in the Beijing Olympics, would players be expected to head right from the PGA Championship to China? Would they be forced to skip important tournaments on the PGA Tour, including the FedEx Cup playoffs? Would the tour alter its schedule to accommodate?


What about the format? Being discussed is 72 holes of stroke play. If golf is going to be included in the Olympics, at least make the format for the competition one that is not used every week, one that is more fun, perhaps one that is more team oriented. At least in that case, players would be competing for their teams instead of themselves.


And would the top players even participate? Tiger Woods will be 40 when the 2016 games are played. Perhaps by then he'll have surpassed Jack Nicklaus' major championship record and he might welcome participating in the Games. If so, that's the only way this could work going forward.

Jason Sobel, golf writer, ESPN.com: FACT.
Sure, makes sense to me. I mean, if things like the modern pentathlon, windsurfing and trampoline are in the Summer Games, golf should be, too. After all, what golf fan wouldn't want to see the world's top players competing in one more meaningful event every four years?


The International Golf Federation, featuring some of the game's heaviest-hitting executives, has been formed in hopes of making the game an Olympic sport in 2016. Sounds good, but here's where they need help: According to preliminary thoughts, the golf portion of the Olympics would look an awful lot like every other tournament on the annual schedule, consisting of a stroke-play event in which the top three players after four rounds receive medals. Bor-ing!


Instead, the IGF should steal a page from the World Cup, with two-player teams from each nation competing in foursomes, fourballs and singles matches. Wanna make it more exciting? Throw in a scramble format, too. Or how about this: Don't make the men's and women's events separate. We could have a U.S. team of Tiger Woods and Paula Creamer, a South Korean team of K.J. Choi and In Bee Park, a Mexican team of Lorena Ochoa and, well, somebody.


The point is, golf would make for a terrific addition to the Olympics, but if the event looks very much like every other week on tour, it won't be any more exciting than trampoline.

John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FICTION.

I'm old school, and I much preferred the Olympics when professional athletes were not permitted to play.


I have no interest in watching NBA or NHL players compete for a gold medal. Nor did I particularly care when Steffi Graf won the gold to go along with her Grand Slam in tennis.


And that's really the point. Basketball has the NBA Finals, hockey has the Stanley Cup finals, and tennis and golf have four major championships. They all are far more important to fans of those sports than the Olympics ever will be.


For many Olympic sports, the Games are the ultimate competition, a special world championship held every four years. For world-class golfers, the Olympics certainly would not be among the top five tournaments they play each year (four majors and the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup) and probably would rank much lower than that.


Besides, if the Olympics are held in July or August, golfers would have to schedule their appearances around the British Open or PGA Championship. And just how many players would compete in the Olympics? Two per country? I'm just not all that excited about seeing Dismas Indiza and Jacob Okello representing Kenya.


How many top talents would compete? Face it, you're getting Tiger or Phil Mickelson to play in 2016.


Instead of having an Olympic golf tournament that would be nothing more than a gold-medal version of the WGC-World Cup, let another sport into the event. Softball, which loses its spot after this year, needs an Olympic boost and has players who truly care about competing for their countries. It deserves another Olympic spot before golf gets one.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FACT.
There could be no more significant grow-the-game program for golf than making it an Olympic sport. Even in golf-passionate countries like Australia, the bulk of government financial support for developing athletes goes to those sports in which the national reputation can be enhanced with the winning of gold medals on the world stage at the Olympics.

Just imagine what it would mean for the golf economy and for the talent pool of the game if China or India, for example, got seriously committed to developing world-class golfers.

The disruption Olympic golf would have on the professional tours would be minimal. A handful of top players would miss a couple of weeks once every four years. That's a small price to pay for the growth potential involved.

Besides, the PGA Tour already has events the stars skip. It would be easy to schedule two of those tournaments during the Olympic Games.

One last point: Having golf in the Olympics also would expand the fan base of the game by putting the sport in front of those spectators who love sports but might not necessarily watch golf. And once you get new people in the tent, a certain amount are bound to come back. It's a no-brainer: Golf in the Olympics would be great for the game.