CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - While Adam Scott considers Olympic golf to be an “exhibition” sport, Swede Henrik Stenson by contrast wants to embrace the entire experience at the Rio Games next year, on and off the course.
World number three Stenson plans to immerse himself by marching in the opening ceremony, staying in the athletes’ village and trying to win a medal for his country as golf returns to the Olympic schedule for the first time since 1904.
He even has envisaged the pride that would come from having an Olympic medal on his mantelpiece to gaze at as he relaxes in his rocking chair as a senior citizen.
Above all, Stenson believes it will be important for most of the top players who are exempt to show up in Brazil to increase the chances of golf retaining its Olympic status.
“I see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the Olympics,” the 39-year-old told Reuters at the Wells Fargo Championship.
”It’s a cool event and, given my age, it could be the only chance I have. I think I’d stay in the village, to get the feel of it. That would elevate the experience.
“I know some of the athletes who will be there and I‘m sure I will make some new friends. That’s part of the (experience), being able to have dinners and some chats.”
As for the golf, Stenson fancies his chances of snaring a medal in an event that will have a limited 60-man field that will include a smattering of players without any hope of competing with the big boys.
“Because of the structure of the qualification, I would think it would be down to 30-40 guys competing for the medals,” said Stenson, who is part of a four-player Olympic liaison committee with Thongchai Jaidee, Karrie Webb and Park In-bee.
“So of course you fancy your chances if you’re having a good week.”
Stenson readily acknowledges that a gold medal is not as coveted as a major championship victory, but he nonetheless considers it would be a big deal.
“It would be huge back home, winning a medal, because Sweden is a big sporting nation and they would look at it like getting a medal in any other sport,” he said. “I think it would be bigger outside the golfing community.”
Told of the lukewarm attitude to Olympic golf expressed by Australian Scott earlier this week, Stenson said “each to his own” and emphasised the importance of the top players competing.
”It’s down to having all the top guys who are qualified showing up and playing,“ he said. ”I think that will be a big part of whether golf is successful or not.
“Of course, it wouldn’t be good for the tournament if there are a lot of (top) guys not showing up.”
Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes