- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2009

LAUSANNE, Switzerland | With seven sports vying for inclusion in the 2016 Summer Games, Colin Montgomerie and Annika Sorenstam delivered the message Monday that winning an Olympic gold medal in golf would be as important as winning a major.

Montgomerie, the European Ryder Cup captain, and Sorenstam, the Swedish great who retired last year after winning 10 majors, were the biggest names on hand when the sports federations made pitches to the International Olympic Committee executive board.

Baseball, softball, rugby sevens, roller sports, squash and karate also put their case to the board, which will meet in Berlin on Aug. 13 to select two sports to put forward for ratification at the IOC general assembly in Copenhagen in October.

“All seven sports made interesting and informative presentations,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement. “All have something to offer. In the end, the decision will come down to which are the best fit for the Olympic program.”

Golf and rugby sevens - a shortened version of the more established 15-a-side game - have emerged as the favorites for acceptance on the Olympic program.

Golf was played at the 1900 Paris Olympics and 1904 St. Louis Games, where only Canada and the United States competed.

One of the main issues has been whether golf’s top multimillionaire players would bother to compete in the Olympics, when they already have a full schedule of majors, tour events and international team competitions.

Montgomerie and Sorenstam came to Lausanne to provide the answer.

“I can’t think of a tougher championship,” Sorenstam said. “You only get a chance to win once every four years rather than four times a year. The moments when you represent your own country are the highlights of your career. It doesn’t happen very often. There is something special about that.”

Montgomerie, who failed to qualify for this week’s U.S. Open, said winning an Olympic gold would make up for never having captured one of golf’s four majors.

“To be the first gold-medal winner in 117 years? Definitely,” the Scotsman said. “I’ll be 53 in 2016. If I’m in the top six in the world, my God, I’ll be there.

“Yes, we have our major championships that are the top of the game of golf, but it’s certainly not at the top of sport,” Montgomerie said. “We want to bring golf to the pinnacle of sport.”

Underlining the message was golf’s video featuring support from Jack Nicklaus, top-ranked Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa and young stars Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.

“We shot under par,” Sorenstam said of the closed-door presentation.

The IOC’s final decision will be made Oct. 9, seven days after the 2016 host city is selected from Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

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