Early start for Harrington; McGinley excited to showcase "an open sport" worldwide

Early start for Harrington; McGinley excited to showcase "an open sport" worldwide
 Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power in Rio

Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power in Rio

The Rio Olympics are in full swing and given the good vibes emanating from Brazil, the positive blowback can only be a good thing for golf

Pádraig Harrington arrived in the early hours of Monday and immediately had his picture taken at the Olympic Village with West Waterford's Seamus Power, his "team mate" for the Men's Golf competition, which tees off on Thursday.

Harrington arrived in time for the release of the Men's draw and he will be the first European to hit a ball in golf's return to the Olympics after a 112 year absence.

History will be made at 7.30am local time on Thursday when Brazilian, Adilson da Silva, hits the opening tee shot with Harrington in the second group with Italy’s Matteo Manassero and New Zealand’s Danny Lee.

Harrington and Manassero formed part of the International Golf Federation’s delegation that presented golf’s case for inclusion in the Games at the 2009 IOC Session in Copenhagen.

"Two early times 2nd off at 7.41 Thursday and then Friday at 9.36," Harrington's twitter account said. "Could be to my advantage if the wind picks up during the day."

Two further Olympic connections are celebrated in the first group. Canada’s Graham DeLaet, whose countryman George Lyon won the Olympic gold medal in 1904, the last time golf was part of the Olympic programme, will tee off second.  And, Byeong Hun An, the son of two Olympic table tennis medalists at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, will complete the group.

Other notable tee times include 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett from Great Britain who will play with American Matt Kuchar and China’s Haotong Li at 9.03am. 

Two-time Masters winner, Bubba Watson, will tee off at 9.14am in the same group as former US Open champion Martin Kaymer from Germany and India’s Anirban Lahiri. 

Siddikur Rahman, who carried Bangladesh’s flag during the Opening Ceremony, will begin their first round at 10.14am in a group with the Netherlands’ Joost Luiten and Ricardo Melo Gouveia from Portugal.

At 10.58am, world number seven Rickie Fowler from the USA, former US Open champion Justin Rose, from Great Britain, and last month’s winner of the Canadian Open, Jhonattan Vegas, will begin their bid for Olympic gold. 

Power goes off 10.47am local times with SSP Chawrasia and Lin Wen-Tang from Taiwan while at 11.09am, The Open champion and world number five Henrik Stenson will play alongside Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Rafa Cabrera Bello at in Thursday’s final group.

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Irish team captain Paul McGinley is a huge believer in the power of the Olympic Games to help improve golf's image as an elite sport.

It is elite in many parts of the world, but it is also a sport played by ordinary men and women and the Olympics, he believes, will give it a chance to showcase itself to millions around the world.

Speaking to Golfweek's Alistair Tait, McGinley said

"Golf suffers from an elite image more than most sports,” he said. “That’s not always the way with golf. There’s a lot of golf played that is very open to kids and all people. It’s important we showcase that and be part of the big picture, that we showcase our sport as being an open sport.”
“I refuse to see the small picture of golf’s participation in the Olympics,” McGinley said. “I see the big picture. Let’s embrace it. It’s one week every four years where we get a chance to showcase our game. Golf is going to have a window on live TV in places like China, Korea, India, Pakistan, places of mass populations of people in the middle of nowhere who are going to see golf for the first time, even if it’s only for 20 minutes. Isn’t that huge?
“The other element is, a lot of countries fund sport through the Olympic movement. If golf is part of the Olympic movement, then golf is getting funded where it wasn’t getting funded before. That’s big-picture stuff.”