October 9, 2009: Tiger Woods earns more than $90 million a year in endorsements, has won 14 major golf tournaments and more than 70 tournaments overall as a professional, but the International Olympic Committee has the power to give Woods an opportunity he has yet to achieve — win an Olympic gold medal.
Both golf and rugby sevens now have golden futures as they have been voted by the International Olympic Committee for inclusion beginning with the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. The two sports had been recommended by the IOC Executive Board in August following an extensive evaluation by the Olympic Programme Commission of the seven sports seeking to enter the program. Golf was last seen in the Olympics during the 1900 Games in Paris and the 1904 Games in St. Louis.
“Both golf and rugby are very popular sports with global appeal and a strong ethic,” IOC President Jacques Rogge, who also was elected to another term, said in a statement. “They will be great additions to the Games.”
Both sports needed to receive a majority of votes from the 106 IOC members taking part in the process. Golf was approved 63-27 with two abstentions. Rugby was voted in 81-8 with one abstention. Golf will have a 72-hole stroke-play tournament to include the world's top ranked men and women golfers at the thime, with 60 players in each field. They are the first new sports added since triathlon and taekwondo joined the program for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Padraig Harrington and Michelle Wie addressed the IOC in person before the vote. Tiger Woods made a video presentation.
"There is absolutely no question that adding golf to the Olympics would be great for the sport and a great addition to the Games," said Karen Durkin, CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation and a former evp and CMO for the LPGA. "It not only would help golf grow around the world for generations to come, it would be a strong partner to the sports already represented at the Olympics."
Golf and rugby already had cleared numerous hurdles just to get to this point, having been recommended this past August by the IOC's executive board for reinstatement voting while baseball, softball karate, squash and roller sports failed to make the cut.
Woods himself has been a strong proponent for golf's Olympic status, and members of the IOC who are convening in Copenhagen will see the him on videotape extolling the game's virtues and importance to the global sports community. A key selling point: Woods has promised to be part of the U.S. golf team and play in the Olympics in 2016, adding with a smile in a recent comment, "if I'm not retired by then." Woods would be 40 and still a strong contender to make the squad.
Two more key selling points to reinstatement: The sport's representative associations have said that the top golfers at the time would play in the Olympics, and also that tournament schedules would be adjusted so as not to conflict with the Summer Games. Under a current proposal, the world's top 15 ranked players in both the men's and women's fields at the time would be eligible for the Olympics, with 15 other top-ranked men and 15 other top-ranked women also eligible, with selections dependent on which country they would represent.
Golf icons Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam have been working as official global ambassadors, helping to present a unified front under the auspices of the International Golf Federation, which is recognized by the IOC as the sport's representative group. Among golf's other high-profile Olympic supporters are two-time US Open champion Padraig Harrington and LPGA star Michelle Wie, who flew to Copenhagen as part of a golf contingent to speak with IOC voters. "I'm really excited and I feel really honored that I got chosen to go over there," Wie told reporters. "Hopefully, golf will be part of the Olympics. If that happens, I think it would be the greatest thing that could ever happen to golf . . . it would be the highest achievement for any golfer, or for any athlete, to be part of the Olympics."
Although not beholding to his opinion, IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement in August after golf and rugby were approved for reinstatement voting, "Golf and rugby [wold] be a great additions to the Olympics."