Golf's stars must 'give back to the game' at Tokyo 2020


International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson hopes the sport's top players show more support for the 2020 Olympic Games after a succession of high-profile withdrawals from Rio.

Golf will return to the Olympics in Brazil next month for the first time since 1904, but scheduling issues and concerns over the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked with birth defects, has prompted all of the world's top four male players - Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy - to pull out., along with several other high-profile talents.

South African Lee-Anne Pace is the only woman who has opted not to compete.

Dawson - speaking ahead of The Open at Royal Troon - has acknowledged the weakened men's field will do little to impress the International Olympic Committee.

"It's certainly disappointing that we've had so many withdrawals on the men's side, and wonderful that all of the women have been very supportive," he said of what was meant to be a triumphant comeback after an absence of more than a century. 

"There is no doubt that the number of withdrawals hasn't shed golf in the best light. [It] hasn't shown golf in the best light, and we have to accept that. 

"Personally, I think there's been something of an overreaction to the Zika situation, but that's for individuals to determine, and there's certainly a great deal of concern about this issue inside the game of golf, no doubt about that."

Golf in 2009 secured its return to the Olympics for the 2016 and 2020 Games but has no guarantees of remaining part of the rota beyond then, prompting Dawson to beseech the game's best to "give back" to the sport by competing in Japan.

"What I'm hoping is that when we come to play in Tokyo in 2020 ... that the top players do support Olympic golf," he said.

"I think it's very important that they do. And I can't think of a better way for players to give back to the game, frankly, than to support Olympic golf."

Dawson conceded The Masters, The U.S. Open, The Open Championship and The PGA Championship remain the biggest lure in golf but he does not believe that should preclude the sport's stars from chasing a gold medal. 

"I think it is true that for many players ... [that] a major golf championship today they regard as the pinnacle of the game," he added.

"I don't actually think that matters. I think there's still room for them to go and play in the Olympic Games."