LOS ANGELES • Australia's former world No. 1 Adam Scott drew criticism and reignited debate over golf's inclusion in the Olympics after announcing he would give Rio a miss because of his busy schedule.
Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus and two-time Major winner Johnny Miller both expressed disappointment at Scott's move as golf returns to the Games after a 112-year absence.
"Playing for your country is a lot bigger than playing for yourself," Miller said, according to newspaper reports.
The 35-year-old Scott, currently world No. 7, made his announcement on Wednesday.
"My decision has been taken as a result of an extremely busy playing schedule around the time of the Olympics and other commitments, both personal and professional," he said in a statement.
But Miller blasted back: "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."
Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 Majors and regarded as the greatest golfer in history, told reporters at a charity golf event in Ohio: "I think that's sad. I think it's sad for the Olympics and for the game of golf.
"I don't know Adam's circumstances, so I couldn't comment on what he's dealing with. Obviously, he felt like he couldn't play, and if he felt that way, I understand. But it's unfortunate."
Australian golf great Jack Newton jumped to Scott's defence and told critics to lay off the 2013 US Masters champion.
"It's a personal decision," Newton was reported as saying yesterday. "He's not letting the country down. He's not letting the Olympics down."
But outspoken Australian swimming great Dawn Fraser was strongly critical of her countryman.
"Well done, Adam. Great to put your country on hold so that you can fulfil your own schedule," the triple Olympic 100m freestyle gold medallist wrote on Facebook, adding that she worked three jobs to realise her own Olympic ambitions.
"How much money do you want in life... I am still trying to survive at 78 years of age but a very proud Australian," added Fraser.
Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt told the Sydney Daily Telegraph that Scott's decision would enable another player to seize a spot at Rio.
However, some US pundits applauded Scott's move - and said it illustrated why the sport should not have returned to the Olympic fold.
The US PGA Championship has been moved forward and becomes July's second Major, two weeks after the British Open, in a packed 2016 golf calendar.
"Scott is not the only marquee name who doesn't embrace the Olympic golf tournament being squeezed into such a small window in July and August," wrote Jim McCabe on golfweek.com.
"Don't be surprised if you hear from another one or two."
Another comment piece on the USA Today website was headlined: "Adam Scott just showed why golf shouldn't be an Olympic sport."
"An Olympic gold medal should be the highest honour there is to win in the chosen sport. Anything less devalues the entire competition. That's not the case in golf," the column read.
Scott has long been lukewarm on attending the Games, maintaining that the four Major tournaments remain the pinnacle of the sport.
"I'll still base my schedule around the Majors and if the Olympics fits in, then it does," he said at the Australian Open last November.
Last week, another former Major champion, Fiji's Vijay Singh, also announced he would skip the Olympics, citing concerns over the Zika virus.