SAN MARTIN, Calif. – So what do the women teeing it up at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open think of so many men dropping out of Olympic consideration?
“I’m thinking it may affect how golf will be re-evaluated, for future Olympics,” said Julieta Granada, who will represent Paraguay and carry the country’s flag in the opening ceremony. “Zika is a good reason. I’m not saying it isn’t, but do these decisions involve other factors? I think so, but I can’t really judge them on that. That’s their decision.”
Granada is concerned that the Olympic withdrawal of so many top male golfers may jeopardize future Olympic chances for women.
“I don’t see how it couldn’t affect us,” Granada said.
Granada isn’t alone worrying women may see their Olympic future ended because so many top male players aren’t embracing it the way the women are. Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are among 13 men who have withdrawn their names from Olympic consideration. So far, Lee-Anne Pace is the only woman who has announced she is withdrawing.
While golf is guaranteed to remain a part of the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, Olympic officials will decide in 2017 whether the sport should remain a part of the Games after that.
“That's definitely there,” Stacy Lewis said of the threat. “It would be a shame if we weren't a part of the Olympics going forward.”
Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko is committed to going to Rio de Janeiro.
“No matter what, I’m going, if New Zealand sends me,” Ko said. “I’m super excited. On the women’s side, so many of the big names are still really excited to go.”
Count Americans Lexi Thompson and Lewis among that contingent. Both have committed to going. Lewis said only the development of some serious, unforeseen security concern could stop her.
“I think it’s the greatest sporting event ever, in history,” Lewis said.
Lewis says she understands why so many PGA Tour pros have reservations, even beyond their Zika concerns.
“It’s hard,” Lewis said. “Those guys play for so much money, and I think you kind of get lost in that at times. If I knew that I had the potential of a $10 million paycheck at the end of the year, I'd probably do my schedule a little bit different, too.
“You become a product of that environment. You have that opportunity to win that that money, you become a product of it. And you can't blame them for being that way. They are bread to be that way, with the amount of money that they play for.
“On our tour, while we have some pretty good paychecks, it's nowhere close to what those guys are playing for. So, to me, the opportunity to play in the Olympics, and to represent your country, is probably worth as much as winning a U.S. Women’s Open or winning an [ANA Inspiration] or winning any of those big majors. Winning a gold medal would be up there with winning a major championship, to me, and that's the difference of the men versus the women.”