Those players skipping the Olympics because of fears about the Zika virus in Brazil would probably play this year’s Open if there was Bubonic plague in Scotland. What’s a spot of gangrene when you could win the Claret Jug?
So while the top four golfers in the world rankings – Australia’s Jason Day, Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy – are all giving Rio a miss, expect one of them to be in contention on Sunday afternoon at Royal Troon. If we’re lucky, it might be all four of them.
Johnson, rightly or wrongly, had earned a reputation as a serial choker before winning his first major title at this year’s US Open. When the 32-year-old won the Bridgestone Invitational in his very next tournament, after Day dropped four shots in his final four holes, it suggested the floodgates had left their hinges.
Johnson’s major derailments include the 2010, 2011 and 2015 Opens but no-one has ever doubted he has the game to triumph in links conditions. His mind always seemed to be the problem, although it seems to be a problem no longer.
Former world number one and four-time major winner McIlroy has endured a maddeningly inconsistent season. The 27-year-old missed St Andrews because of injury and has not won a major title since his Open-USPGA double in 2014.
This year he missed the cut at the US Open but did win the Irish Open, his first trophy of the season, before finishing third at the French Open, his last event.
Two top-five finishes in his last three starts show that his best form isn’t too far off, despite three-time Open champion Sir Nick Faldo claiming he has spotted flaws in the McIlroy swing that might help explain his fall down the rankings.