Kaymer and Stenson looking forward to Olympic opportunity
German star would take a gold medal over a Major this season
Rory McIlroy (far right) tries out a ’Golfboard’ along with Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Adam Scott believes taking time off is more appealing and Rory McIlroy appears lukewarm about golf’s return to the Olympics, but Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson are relishing the opportunity to be in Rio this summer.
Golf will feature in the Olympics for the first time since 1904 in Brazil and Swede Stenson is hoping to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s always special when you play the Ryder Cup, you represent your continent and your country, and in the Olympics you represent your country,” Stenson said ahead of this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. “It’s always an honour to play for Sweden and of course, I hope I can play well.”
Germany’s Kaymer is also excited by the prospect and recognises his chances of winning an Olympic medal during his career will be strictly limited.
Asked if he would rather win a Major championship or gold medal in 2016, the 31-year-old said: “I’ll take the Major next year, the gold medal this year.
“In my career I’ve only maybe twice, hopefully three times a chance to win a gold medal. The Majors, I will have a lot more. I have time to win one of those again. So this year I would definitely take the gold medal.
“I think that if I go, I would like to have the maximum out of it. If I can win or if I can compete or at least have a chance and go to other sports, watch them and see how much heart they put in it, I think that is what the Olympic Games are all about, and that’s why I think it would be amazing to be successful there.”
Kaymer has already won two Major titles while Stenson is still looking to become the first male Swedish player to win one of the game’s biggest prizes, so it was perhaps not surprising that the 39-year-old was slightly less effusive than his Ryder Cup team-mate.
“It’s very hard,” Stenson said. “I think the Olympics is new for us. We’re not quite sure how it’s going to pan out and how it’s going to feel to play there.
“I’m very excited about it. I haven’t been to an Olympic Games, so to make it my first one as a participant, I’m thinking it’s going to be a lot of great experiences. And then if I can play well and do myself and my country proud, that would be awesome, too.
“But I guess if I had to choose, I might take a Major championship by a couple of per cent. But if I win the gold medal, I might tell you differently.”
World number six Rickie Fowler instantly opted for a Major title over Olympic gold, but added: “A Major is a Major and it’s always going to be a Major. Up until this year, the Olympics was never really even a thought for us. So they are just completely different ends of the spectrum.
“But a medal at the Olympics and just to be part of the team and play for your country . . . looking back at playing in the Walker Cup and now to the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, they are special occasions and special moments. That would just be another chance to do that. It’s pretty special being able to carry your flag and wear your colours.”
McIlroy admits it would be an “incredible thrill” to win gold when he represents Ireland in Rio, but said in December: “For most of the athletes it’s a culmination of four years of really hard work. For us it’s after the Major season. People compare it to tennis, and I’m sure if golf is in the Games for a while I think it will become a bigger event in our sport as well. I just think it needs time to evolve.”
McIlroy will tee it up alongside world No 1 Jordan Spieth and and world no 6 Fowler over the opening two rounds in Abu Dhabi as he gets his season underway.
The three-ball will tee off at 7.40am (3.40am Irish time) on Thursday and 12.05pm (8.05am) on Friday.
Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke and fellow Ulster golfer Michael Hoey are also in the field for the event.