FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Golf’s return to the Olympics was largely viewed as a success, with Justin Rose outlasting Henrik Stenson for the gold medal two weeks ago in Rio. But the men’s field wasn’t quite what it could have been, as the top four players in the world rankings when qualification ended chose to skip the competition.
While the Olympic viewing habits of those players varied greatly, they all agreed that the play was good for the growth of the game.
“Obviously it pleasantly surprised me," said Rory McIlroy. "There was more people at the golf events than there was at the athletic events. It was good to see, it really was. To see the crowds and see the turnout, I was glad to be somewhat proven wrong.”
Jordan Spieth stood by his decision to opt out of the Olympics, but that didn’t prevent him from having a tinge of envy while watching everything from the golf competition to Rickie Fowler march through the stadium during the opening ceremony.
“I really enjoyed it. It came off I thought tremendous for the game. I enjoyed watching the finish to the Olympics, and I wished I was there,” Spieth said. “Personally, I thought of it as the hype of a major championship as from a player’s perspective watching.”
While Spieth logged plenty of time watching the Olympic golf, the two players above him in the world rankings were on the other side of the spectrum.
“I watched a little bit, not too much golf. I watched a lot of the Olympics,” said Dustin Johnson. “Doesn’t matter if it’s the Olympics or what golf tournament it is, I don’t watch it. I play enough golf, I don’t need to watch.”
“I only watched one hole,” added world No. 1 Jason Day. “I didn’t really watch much of the Olympics at all, to be honest.”
While Day wasn’t glued to his television screen, he remains bullish on the impact golf’s inclusion in the games, especially after speaking with Rose at a corporate event on Monday.
“I think after seeing how everything kind of unfolded in Rio with how the golf was played, I think it was well-received amongst the world, actually,” Day said. “I guess there’s a lot more fans that can watch golf now that have never really watched it before, just because it’s in the Olympics. Like I said, from what [Rose] said, it was very well-received.”