24 Jul 2021 | Professional golf |

Aussies treating Tokyo as "major of all majors"

by Dane Heverin

Minjee Lee is going for gold in Tokyo.

One year on from the planned start date, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are finally underway.

Golf fans have to wait a little bit longer for play to start - men’s competition commences on Thursday 29 July and women’s competition begins on Wednesday 4 August - but at least the wait is not 112 years this time.

Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East Course promises to deliver a classic look and feel, while its 2016 redesign created moderate undulations on the fairways and greens with dynamic level changes, surrounded by large and deep bunkers, to challenge the modern golfer.

Australian golf fans are hoping that this blend of traditional and modern play will suit Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Minjee Lee and Hannah Green in their efforts to win Australia’s first Olympic medal, or medals, in golf.

Australian golf legend Ian Baker-Finch is back for a second stint as Australian Olympic golf team captain and he expects his team members to be in contention. 

“We’ll definitely be performing at a high level and they’ll be doing their best in Tokyo,” Baker-Finch told Inside The Ropes.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we won a medal or two in both the men’s and women’s competition.

“They’re in strong form and they’re all up for it.”

The team has bought into the Olympic values and Baker-Finch has no doubt that they will represent the country with pride.

“I want to make sure that when the team - guys first week, women second week - that when they arrive, everything is done, and they’re treating it like the major of all majors,” he said.

“They’re there to represent their country, regardless of how they play or how they feel or perform or whatever, they’re representing Australia. 

“They’ll have the green and gold on, and representing our flag, and they all know that all too well.”

The withdrawal of leading men’s players such as Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia from the Games due to COVID-19 concerns has raised questions regarding the importance of the Olympics to golf.

Golf’s re-introduction in Rio was similarly marred by withdrawals due to the Zika virus and the naysayers argue that golf, like tennis, has its majors and does not need to be in the Olympics.

Baker-Finch disagrees. 

“Yes, you want to win a British Open, you want to win a Masters and you’d love to win a grand slam,” Baker-Finch said.

“But I think the icing on the cake is to have a grand slam and a gold medal, I think that’d be something very very special.”

The Australian captain recognises that golf’s place in the Olympics is about more than the professional game.

“It’s been great for golf to be recognised in the world of sport as an Olympic sport,” he said. 

“I think it is a great thing for golf in general.”

Baker-Finch also believes that future changes to the Olympic format could be fantastic for the sport.

“If along the way we could change it to a team event - wouldn’t it be great to have a men’s and women’s team play together,” he said.

“But at the moment it’s just good that it’s in the Olympics.” 

Listen to Ian Baker-Finch on Episode 215 of Inside The Ropes

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