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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A good first step for golf in Olympics

DUBLIN, Ohio — PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem can't think of a better scenario when the International Olympic Committee meets a year from October. Golf is added to the summer program. Chicago is announced as host city for 2016. And Tiger Woods is going strong and eager to add a gold medal to his trophy collection.

That's still a long way off, but Finchem said Tuesday that golf made a strong first impression in an informal meeting last week with IOC president Jacques Rogge.

Finchem was joined by European Tour chief George O'Grady, LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens, USGA executive director David Fay and Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson. They were told the steps leading to the IOC decision next October and what golf executives have to do to make their case.

"It was important that the IOC saw the game was united, which I think they were impressed with," Finchem said. "That got accomplished. It's a long way, and we have other sports competing for the same spots. We like to think we're what they want because we're a sport that's universal."

Woods gives a boost to any tournament, although any involvement in the Olympics would be short-lived. Woods will be 40 in 2016, the earliest golf could be part of the Olympics.

Chicago is the U.S. city under consideration for 2016, and Finchem was quick to note that Woods has a strong history in Chicago, where he has won two PGA Championships and four PGA Tour events.

"His knee aside, he's such a good athlete, you've got to believe he's going to be competitive," Finchem said. "And there's a lot of interest in whether he plays. But the bigger question is the long-term role of golf in the Olympics."

He also mentioned a long list of courses Chicago can offer.

The biggest obstacle will be scheduling Olympic golf among the last two majors and the tour's FedEx Cup finale. Finchem suggested one possibility of the men and women competing over separate weeks. The four playoff events for the FedEx Cup already are being rearranged this year for the Ryder Cup, and Finchem says they will work even into the early part of football season.

"We're not really doing it for golf in the U.S. anyway," he said. "It's for growing the game around the world and something we can all do together. The value for the players is that the more people that play around the world, the more people will be watching. They'll be paid back eventually."


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