Johnson doubts golf's Olympic relevance


Open champion Zach Johnson has questioned golf's place in the Olympics on the day Jordan Spieth withdrew from the Rio Games.

The return of the sport to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 has been beset by high-profile no-shows, with two-time major winner Spieth on Monday following Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson in pulling out.

That means none of the world's top four male players will be present in Brazil, as fears over the mosquito-borne Zika virus - which has been linked to birth defects - together with scheduling issues serve to undermine attempts to successfully reintroduce golf to the quadrennial showcase event.

Addressing the media before Spieth's withdrawal was announced by the International Golf Federation at Royal Troon on Monday, the 2007 Masters champion explained the reluctance of many players to embrace the latest addition to their packed competitive schedule.

"There's not many positives for us," said Johnson, who is preparing to try and retain the Claret Jug he won at St Andrews 12 months ago at Troon. 

"It's really hard to navigate when you have major after major after major and very little time off. 

"I mean, no offence to the Olympics but I'd rather be on the Ryder Cup team personally. 

"That's just as an athlete and as a golfer, as an American golfer, I have that opportunity and ... I'd rather be on the Ryder Cup team and try to help our nation out there. But that's just me."

Johnson suggested golf, along with some other high-profile sports, has little need of the publicity boost offered by the Olympics, which serves as the undisputed pinnacle of many athletes' careers.

"I don't know if personally it [golf] needs to be in there ... we're relevant 24/7, 365 [days of the year] ... if that's your barometer and criteria, relevancy," he said.

"I love the athletes and sports that just don't get the recognition like the other sports do. Again, you can argue basketball, and ... even soccer. Do they really need to be in there? My guess is they want a World Cup before they want a gold medal. They'd want an NBA championship before they want a gold medal. 

"To me those sports should be at the forefront, wrestling, all those sports that just don't get the recognition that I'd say the mainstream sports get. Those athletes that train, essentially, for three-plus years for that one opportunity and one week."