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DEREK LAWRENSON: Patrick Reed’s dash to Tokyo shows the pulling power of the Olympics

Over the past six weeks, Patrick Reed has flown approximately 15,000 miles, playing in five different tournaments, criss-crossing America twice and flying the Atlantic to play in The Open.

Yet when he took the call on Saturday night in Minneapolis, he did not hesitate.

Undertake three days of mandatory Covid testing, fly another 1,000 miles to Houston, then fly from there to San Francisco and on to Tokyo, arriving on Wednesday to play in the Olympic golf competition the following day without a practice round? It would be an honour, said Reed.

Patrick Reed didn’t have to think twice when he got the call to head to the Tokyo Olympics

This is the second time that golf has teed it up in the greatest sporting show on earth and because there are plenty in the game who are still ambivalent, it is easy for the outside world to fall into the trap of thinking that applies to everyone. Yet there are many of the same mind as Reed who deserve to be heard.

Reed’s near namesake Mel Reid, from Derby, gave up the chance of playing in a women’s major in France last week to make sure nothing could stop her dream of becoming an Olympian.

Then there is the lovely photo Tommy Fleetwood posted on social media before his flight. There they all were, not only the Fleetwood crew plus mum and dad, but the family of his caddie Ian Finnis as well, with the front door of the house suitably decorated in Team GB bunting. 

The boy who came from nothing being given a proper send-off as he prepares to represent his country on the biggest stage of all. Isn’t that what the Olympics is all about?

John Rahm was forced to pull out of the Olympics after testing positive for Covid-19

American Bryson DeChambeau also withdrew after he too tested positive

Golf has been dealt blows with Bryson DeChambeau (right) and Jon Rahm (left) forced to pull out after testing positive for Covid-19

Yes, it is true the golf competition has taken some significant blows. It looked like it would be one of the biggest events of all when Japanese poster boy Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian player to win the Masters. 

Since then, the news has been negative, with the lengthy list of withdrawals culminating in the loss of world No 1 Jon Rahm and charismatic Bryson DeChambeau to positive Covid tests at the weekend, not to mention the most grievous blow of all in the absence of the golf-loving Japanese public.

But there is still hope the 60 men on view this week can add to the feelgood news these Games are generating already. The tournament in Rio last time began under a cloud owing to withdrawals because of the Zika virus and ended up making a valuable contribution with Justin Rose winning a terrific contest against Henrik Stenson.

Led from the front this time by new Open champion Collin Morikawa and by example by his countryman Reed, with a supporting cast including Rory McIlroy, Fleetwood and Paul Casey, do not think for a moment these medals will not mean much.

LI’S DRAMATIC FALL FROM GRACE 

Haotong Li was understandably proclaimed as China’s first golf superstar when, aged just 22, he defeated Rory McIlroy down the stretch to claim the Dubai Desert Classic in 2018.

This year, he has played in 12 events on the European Tour and missed the cut in all of them bar one, when he withdrew after the first round. He has fallen from just outside the world’s top 30 to 394th and last week, at the Cazoo Open at Celtic Manor, he opened with an 84. 

You might never get punched or kicked in golf but, goodness, it can beat you to a pulp just the same.

China's Haotong Li dropped from just outside the world's top 30 to 394th last week

China’s Haotong Li dropped from just outside the world’s top 30 to 394th last week

EVIAN STILL A MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT 

I remember expressing horror in this column eight years ago when it was announced that the Evian Championship in France was going to become the fifth major in women’s golf. Watching the weekend’s action, I cannot say my feelings have changed.

Sure, it was a nice enough story with the Australian Minjee Lee pulling off a mighty comeback to follow up her brother Min Woo Lee’s victory in the Scottish Open a fortnight earlier. But is this really a course good enough to be hosting a major each year?

Spectacular, certainly, and perfect for a top event one rung below the majors — where this one belongs — but surely too easy for the highest strata of all. 

Now we get the near-annual defacing of the majors record book. Nobody, man or woman, has shot lower than 62 anywhere else in the last 150 years, but there have now been three 61s posted at the Evian, including two last week.

The course at the Evian Championship is too easy for the highest strata of golf players

The course at the Evian Championship is too easy for the highest strata of golf players

In the play-off at the par five 18th, Lee needed merely a drive and six iron to find the green. American Brittany Lang shot four rounds in the sixties — and finished joint 12th.

That is not major golf, or shouldn’t be, anyway.

The good news is there is not long to wait for a proper major staged on a proper golf course — the Women’s Open at Carnoustie next month. Shoot four rounds in the sixties there and you certainly would not finish 12th.

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