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Golf closer to becoming an Olympic event

Golf cleared its first big hurdle last week when an IOC report recommended adding the sport to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Because the IOC refuses to increase the number of Olympic sports above the current level of 28, golf can only be admitted if another sport is dropped. Baseball, softball and the modern pentathlon are on the chopping block.

A larger hurdle could be an International Olympic Committee directive that a sport is added only if it attracts the best athletes.

If Tiger Woods isn't interested, does golf have a chance?

``We have discussed this with the IOC,'' U.S. Golf Association executive director David Fay said last week before leaving for Switzerland to meet with IOC president Jacques Rogge. ``They understand that golfers are independent contractors, and no one makes a decision for a player other than the player.

``Who knows what will happen in 2008? Tiger Woods might be racing yachts. You can't make an assumption six years out.''

Fay and Royal & Ancient secretary Peter Dawson are joint leaders of the World Amateur Golf Council, which the IOC recognizes as the official golf federation.

Fay said the proposal endorsed by the IOC program commission was for two tournaments (men and women) featuring 72 holes of stroke play with 50 players in each field.

The players would be selected primarily from the world ranking, and no country could send more than two players. Because that might exhaust the list quickly, Fay said he envisioned the WAGC selecting wild-card entries from countries not known as golf powers.

Woods, meanwhile, has not said whether he would play.

When the idea came up two years ago during the PGA Championship, he said the Olympics would not be a priority because golf already has four major championships. Later that year during a stop in London, Woods said he would like to see golf in the Olympics.

``It's impossible to make a judgment for '08,'' said his agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG. ``The schedule is very crowded right now, and crowded with other events that can be considered at this point de facto Olympics for golf, such as the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup.''

Another issue facing golf is scheduling, since the Olympics likely would fall between the British Open and the PGA Championship.

Golf's fate in the Olympics will be decided by the IOC assembly meeting in Mexico in November. Cutting sports requires a majority vote of more than 120 members, while a two-thirds vote is required for adding sports.

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