While not everyone wins a medal at the Olympics, the Games themselves continue to win over golfers who were initially reluctant to embrace what still feels like a new concept.
Add Rory McIlroy (above) and Justin Thomas to the list of Olympic converts.
“I made some comments before that were probably uneducated and impulsive, but coming here experiencing it, seeing, feeling everything that goes on, not just Olympic golf but just the Olympics in general, that sort of Olympic spirit's definitely bitten me and I'm excited how this week's turned out and excited for the future,” McIlroy said after falling out of a playoff for the bronze medal won by C.T. Pan.
Though Thomas didn’t factor in the medal chase on Sunday, he left Japan with a different perspective.
“It was cooler than I thought it was. I'm more proud of being here than I thought I would be. I thought I would be proud, but the first like day or two I immediately found out that this is like the coolest thing I've ever been a part of,” Thomas said.
It was cooler than I thought it was. I'm more proud of being here than I thought I would be.
I thought I would be proud, but the first like day or two I immediately found out that this is like the coolest thing I've ever been a part of.”
“The Ryder Cup is cool, the Presidents Cup's cool, but this is just so different. I grew up watching the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, the majors, and never grew up watching this, so no one was ever able to relay or say how it felt being an Olympian, especially a golfer.
“I was never hitting putts as an 8-, 10-year-old on the putting green to win the Olympics and win a gold medal. So I think when you don't have the ability to dream something, when you get here it's, it can sometimes just take you by surprise and this definitely exceeded that.”
As late as the week before heading to Japan, McIlroy had sounded ambivalent about playing for a medal rather than a trophy. When golf debuted in the Games in 2016, McIlroy had been dismissive of the idea.
Though he didn’t stay in the Olympic village nor have the freedom to attend various events when he wasn’t playing, McIlroy found himself reevaluating his opinion much like he did with the Ryder Cup several years ago.
“I think I need to do a better job of just giving things a chance, experiencing things, not writing them off at first glance. That's sort of a trait of mine, but I'm happy to be proven wrong,” McIlroy said.
“I was proven wrong at the Ryder Cup, I've been proven wrong this week and I'm happy to say that.”
Ron Green Jr.