Nicklaus hails golf’s Olympic inclusion

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are among the many who have hailed the inclusion of golf at the 2016 Olympics.

Golfing icons Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and Presidents Cup players from five countries are celebrating the inclusion of their sport at the 2016 Olympic Games following the IOCs vote in Copenhagen on Friday.

Golf and rugby sevens were approved for admission into the Olympic programme at the Rio de Janeiro Games in seven years, with the Brazilian city set to host a 72-hole strokeplay tournament.

“This is a great day for the game of golf,” said.Nicklaus, who, with 18 titles, has won more major championships than any other player and who, as an ambassador for the International Golf Federation’s Olympic campaign, made presentations to the IOC during the bid process.

“I want to congratulate all those who worked and campaigned so passionately over the last couple of years to make this day a reality.

“It is obvious that the unified voice of golf was not only heard but embraced by the International Olympic Committee.

“When I was asked last year to be a part of this global effort, I was delighted because I believe so strongly in our game and what it represents – honesty, integrity, sportsmanship and good will.

“All of us who have spent our lives playing and enjoying the game of golf fully understand why it deserved a spot on the Olympic programme, and now the sport I have always called the greatest game of all can be shared with the rest of the world on the greatest stage in sports.”

As some of golf’s greatest current players prepared to resume Presidents Cup play in San Francisco in the United States versus International team event, world number one Woods, who sent a video message as part of the final presentation to the IOC, led the reaction to the successful vote.

“I think it’s great for golf,” Woods said. “It’s a perfect fit for the Olympics, and I think we are all looking forward to golf getting into the Olympics.”

Woods, 33, had said previously that he hoped to play in the 2016 Games and asked what would it mean for someone to be a part of the Olympics, he replied: “Well, you’d have to ask Olympic athletes. We as golfers have never had it, so this will be a new experience for golfers who get to participate in the Olympics.

“Having talked to other athletes who have had a chance to experience the Olympics, they have absolutely loved it and had the greatest time.”

Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa, a rookie on the International team at Harding Park, was equally delighted at the prospect of playing in Rio.

“As a golfer, I am honoured,” Ishikawa said. “By having golf be a part of the Olympics, golfers will be more interested in the Olympics, and then sport of golf will get noticed more as well.

“I am looking forward to playing golf in the Olympics.”

South Americans Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Colombia’s Camilo Villegas were also excited at golf’s inclusion.

“I’m delighted to hear golf was elected to the Olympic Games,” Masters champion Cabrera said. “We have the number one athlete in the world in our sport, so why shouldn’t golf be an Olympic Sport?”

Villegas added: “To have golf voted into the 2016 Olympic Games adds to the wonderful news from last week that the games would be played in South America.

“I am very happy that my fellow players and I will have a chance to experience the Olympic Games as competitors instead of spectators.”

Both world number two Phil Mickelson and Canada’s former Masters champion Mike Weir spoke of the benefits for golf worldwide that inclusion would mean.

“I think this is important for the game of golf,” Mickelson said. “It’s important for the growth of the game of golf and it’s exciting what it will mean on a worldwide level for this great game.

“For us to be able to showcase the game in the Olympics is a unique opportunity.”

Weir said: “Having golf added to the 2016 Olympic Games is awesome news.

“It will accelerate the growth of the game globally. It means a world class athlete like Ryo Ishikawa, a team-mate of mine this week at The Presidents Cup, can have the opportunity to win an Olympic medal for his country, something none of us in golf would have thought possible when we were growing up in the sport.

“It also opens the door for so many kids around the world and in Canada who may be playing junior golf today and competing for a gold medal in seven years.”