Payne backs Rio to rise to the occasion


Augusta National chairman Billy Payne has backed organisers of the Rio Olympics to deliver a successful tournament when golf returns to the Games later this year.

In addition to holding his role at Augusta for the past decade, Payne was also the president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games.

And he is confident concerns over the readiness of Rio to stage men's and women's golf tournaments, along with a number of other events, will be allayed between now and August.

Speaking on Wednesday ahead of the Masters, Payne said: "It seems that every Olympic Games, including our Games in Atlanta, there are a multitude of concerns as you approach the Games about the state of preparedness, whether they can possibly be ready.

"All of the issues surface almost every time, but somehow, countries, when their national pride is at stake, have a way of rising to the occasion and I suspect that is what we will see in Brazil."

The winner of the men's golf tournament in Rio will gain automatic entry into all four majors in 2017, a decision Payne said Augusta had "no reservations whatsoever" about.

"We're very proud of it, we think it's appropriate," he added.

Discussing golf's return to the Olympic programme for the first time since 1904, Payne expressed excitement.

Having described the Olympics as "the world's largest platform to showcase sports, the largest and the best," he said: "When you start giving out awards which have the effect of creating immense national pride, I think we will see almost immediately with golf's inclusion in the Olympics, multiple countries start infusing resources and capital into the development of their own golf programmes, because these countries want to win medals.

"I think it will be a very, very positive long-term effect."