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Rio Olympics: Golf has earned its place in future Games - Gary Player

By Phil Casey

Golf returned to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century under a dark cloud caused by the withdrawal of more than 20 top male players.

But it left Rio with the gloom lifted and having done enough to secure its long-term future in the Games, according to nine-time Major winner Gary Player.

Player does have a vested interest as the captain of South Africa's golf team, but it would be hard to deny that the men's and women's events were a success.

Britain's Justin Rose defeated Open champion Henrik Stenson in a thrilling duel, while Inbee Park added a gold medal to her seven Major titles.

Players were more likely to encounter a burrowing owl in a bunker than any mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, the threat of which was cited by the majority of the absentees.

"When I saw players withdraw with uncalled-for remarks, feeble excuses - when you think they play in Asia and Africa with big appearance money, thousand times more serious (threats) with malaria than Zika - I was very sad," Player said.

"Thank you to the players that supported it and had the sense to realise it would help and benefit golf in tiny countries.

"The number of people who watched was almost as high as the Open, which is marvellous. It's been a roaring success."

Golf will also feature in Tokyo in 2020, but every sport's place in the Olympic programme from 2024 onwards will be reviewed by the IOC in September 2017.

Asked if golf had done enough to secure inclusion going forward, Player added: "No doubt. Not even a question. Our ratings have been higher than most sports. They have no option but to continue using us."

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