By Joel Beall
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Though its competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics was a success, a major narrative of golf’s return to the Summer Games remains the sport’s top players — most notably, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy — passing on the event. Judging by their remarks on Wednesday at Bethpage, don’t expect that storyline to emerge at Tokyo in 2020.
Though none of the players expressed regret in their decisions, all hailed the golf tournament in Brazil, with most conveying excitement at the prospect of participating in the next Olympic contest.
"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," said Day to the media before Thursday’s Barclays. "I’m looking forward to Tokyo. If I can play my way on to that team, that would be great. It’s four years away obviously. There’s a lot of golf to be played from now until then. If I can play my way on to that team, that would be fantastic and look forward to representing Australia in Tokyo if I can."
Johnson echoed Day’s sentiments saying, "I wanted to go play (in the Olympics). I wanted to go represent my country. I would have really liked to play in the Olympics, but unfortunately where it was and all the other things that went along with it was my reason for not going. To me the risk wasn’t worth it.
"But I would have really liked to have gone. I think it would be a neat experience and a lot of fun, and especially winning a Gold Medal would be even more fun. I’m looking in order to hopefully making the team and playing in Tokyo."
Spieth, who agonized over his Olympic decision until the final minute, is already making an invite to Tokyo a priority.
"It came off I thought tremendous for the game. I enjoyed watching the finish to the Olympics and I wished I was there," the 23 year old said. "At the time I made the decision, it was the right decision for me. And I told you guys in that press conference, it was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. The potential for regret was going to be there and it certainly was while I was watching, so that’s why I Tweeted out, ‘I’m looking forward to setting it as a goal to be there in 2020.’"
Even McIlroy, one of the Olympics staunchest opponents, admitted golf’s return went better than he expected.
"It was good to see, it really was," stated the four-time major winner. "It seems like it was a great atmosphere down there. I think it was one of the cheaper tickets, as well, and I think that encouraged a lot of people to go.
"I thought it was going to, yeah, just sort of blend in with everything else and be, not forgotten about, but just one of a lot of sports that are there obviously. But to see the crowds and see the turnout, I was glad to be somewhat proven wrong."
While golf will be part of the 2020 schedule, the IOC will meet in 2017 to determine the sport’s long-term outlook with the Summer Games.