Adam Scott accepts criticism for skipping Rio Olympics

Adam Scott watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, May 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Credit: Chuck Burton

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Adam Scott watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, May 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Credit: Chuck Burton

Credit: Chuck Burton

For years Australian Adam Scott has been a beacon of hope for a proud sporting nation yearning for the next Greg Norman.

Through all the pressure and heightened expectations, Scott has never lost his cool or nerve and has represented his home country with class and grace. On every stage across the globe, including in the Presidents Cup and every major championship, Scott’s playing partner was Australia.

En route to becoming the first from the land Down Under to win the Masters, the normally stoic Scott screamed ‘C’mon Aussie’ after sinking a crucial putt on the 72nd hole in 2013. When he slipped on the green jacket, he radiated fulfillment for himself and his country.

Now, however, some of his fellow Australians have turned their backs to him, criticizing him for opting out of the Rio Olympics. Whether because of the hectic schedule that includes three majors in seven weeks before the Olympics, travel demands, time away from family, the Zika virus or political unrest in Brazil, Scott, Vijay Singh, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen will skip the Olympics.

Others might join them.

That doesn’t sit well with many people. Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser, who won four gold and four silver medals in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics for her country, took to Facebook to air her displeasure with Scott.

“Very sorry to hear that Adam Scott cannot fit it into his schedule to play for Australia at the Olympics,” she wrote. “Well done Adam great to put your country on hold so that you can fulfill your own schedule. How much money do you want in life? Not showing much for your country.”

The criticism of Scott extended beyond Australia, coming from, among others, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller. Nicklaus is worried that the sport’s momentum to grow the game will suffer from the defections of some of the game’s biggest players and is concerned that golf’s chances to remain in the Olympics after the 2020 Tokyo Games will be hindered. Miller said playing for your country “is a lot bigger than playing for yourself. I would say I don't care how tired you are, and I wouldn't even care where you place in the tournament, but you need to be there to represent your country.”

As is his nature, Scott has accepted the heat without blowing his stack.

“I just didn't get to see my family enough. I think I'm seeing them six days in seven weeks and it would have been six in nine weeks had I gone to the Olympics,” Scott said this week at Quail Hollow Club where he’s playing in the Wells Fargo Championship. “Those are just the hard decisions you have to make. That's the way it is, unfortunately, and that's the event I decided to skip.

“The tough part was to choose not to represent Australia. But I feel like I do that every week. I've lived my life representing Australia and I feel I've tried to do the best job I can of that. Of course not everyone will understand my decision or like it, but not everyone's in my position where I feel that's something I'm not will to sacrifice some family time for.”

Scott also was concerned about his playing form when he decided to opt out of the Olympics. He played six of eight weeks, with the last week being the Masters, and was mentally and physically drained at Augusta National. The winner of the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship in back-to-back weeks earlier this year doesn’t want to repeat that again.

“My body just didn't swing the club the same way it was when I was much fresher earlier in that Florida swing and even in Bay Hill and the Match Play.  So a lesson learned there,” Scott said. “That was probably a little too much to tackle. I'm going to have to monitor that really closely the next few months through the PGA (Championship) and try and stay as fresh as I possibly can.”

Scott has been critical of golf’s re-inclusion in the Olympics, calling it an exhibition. He’s been critical of the format that is based on individual play instead of team play, and said if the sport is really concerned about growing the game, amateurs should make up the field instead of professionals.

But the flak over his decision not to play in the Olympics has stung.

“It's lucky we're all different; otherwise it would be very boring and things would just go along,” Scott said. “But I think as well as the criticism, I think there was some very fair constructive comments about the whole thing, and some of my point of view and feelings were explained well, too.

“I hope it hasn't had too big of a hit because I think that would be a little bit unfair. You know, we'll all just move on. I'll be back in Australia to play at the end of the year. I think I'm far from abandoning my country."