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PGA Tour throws its weight behind Olympic call

The possibility of golf returning to the Olympic Games after an absence of more than a hundred years increased on Tuesday when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced his support for the idea.

Although raising concern over scheduling issues, Finchem believes the time is right for golf to get back to sport's biggest arena.

"I see two very positive developments coming from including golf as an Olympic sport," Finchem wrote in a blog posted on the PGA Tour's website (www.pgatour.com).

"One would be a significant boost to the popularity and perception of the game all around the world.

"While golf is a developed sport in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan and some other countries, it is only a minor sport in many countries.

"The other major benefit is that it would further help bring the world of golf together to work on this major initiative."

The International Golf Federation and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club have been keen to reintroduce golf to the Olympics for some time.

The earliest chance for golf to be added to the Olympic programme is 2016 with voting scheduled for next year. The International Olympic Committee requires a seven-year lead-in period for the inclusion of new sports.

HOLY GRAIL

Although the four major championships have long been considered golf's holy grail, Finchem believes the sport also has a place within the Olympic structure.

"Adding golf to the Olympics would provide another dimension to our competitive landscape," he said.

"I do not believe Olympic golf would have any effect on the stature or prestige of these other events but rather would provide another, complementary opportunity for our players to compete and demonstrate their skills on a global stage."

In recent years, players such as world number one Tiger Woods and three-times major winner Ernie Els have suggested that golf should be restricted to amateurs if it returns to the Olympic schedule for the first time since 1904.

"Golf should have a huge spot in the Olympics and I'm not sure why it's not there yet," Els told Reuters. "But are you going to put the best amateur players in the Olympics or the best professional players?

"My feeling is that they can put the amateurs in first and see how it works. Then maybe, at a later stage, put in the professionals."

Woods, who has piled up 13 major titles, likes the idea of golf appearing on the Olympic menu, but says it is probably not for him.

"It certainly does excite me," said the 32-year-old American. "But which one would you rather win - an Olympic gold medal or one of the four major championships?"

Golf first featured as an Olympic sport at the 1900 Paris Games, when Americans Charles Sands and Margaret Abbott clinched gold medals in the men's and women's individual events.

Four years later, Canada's George Lyon won the individual title from a field of 75 at the St Louis Games, where the United States sealed team honors after producing the only three sides in the competition.

April 16, 2008

 




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