Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player concerned about stars skipping Rio Olympics (video)

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Jack Nicklaus says golfers who skip the Olympics are hurting the sport. Gary Player thinks golf could be kicked out of the Olympics if top players don’t show up.

In the last two weeks, major champions Vijay SinghAdam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen said they will not play the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years in Rio in August.

All cited scheduling issues during the busy summer PGA Tour stretch, among other reasons.

Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion who never had the chance to play in the Olympics, said he was aware of players pulling out of the Olympics but didn’t know specific names.

“That’s a shame for the game of golf; I think it’s really bad,” Nicklaus told Golf Channel. “We worked really hard to get golf back in the Olympics after 100 and some years. The game needs stimulation in countries where we don’t have golf. We haven’t got a lot of golf in China or India or Russia or Brazil, large countries that the Olympics would just be amazing for.”

The Olympic men’s golf tournament is Aug. 11-14. The PGA Championship ends July 31, and the FedEx Cup Playoffs start Aug. 25.

“Because it doesn’t work in their schedule for one week, to not help the game of golf, and that’s what they’re doing is hurting the game of golf,” Nicklaus said. “It’s not themselves; it’s the game of golf. I don’t know who has turned it down, but I hope that they’ll rethink what they’re doing, because it’s not about them, it’s about the game.”

Player, 80 and a nine-time major champion, will be at the Olympics as captain of the South African team of men and women. He met Jesse Owens at the Olympics 60 years ago.

“We’ve got to remember that a lot of people in golf across the world worked extremely hard to get golf back into the Olympics, and if the top players don’t play, we could get kicked out of the Olympics,” Player told Golf Channel.

The South African Oosthuizen pulling out means South Africa has almost no chance of sending three men’s golfers to Rio. It will almost surely be a two-man team of Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel.

“That’s very, very sad, because I would have given anything, as a young man, to have an opportunity to represent my country and possibly win a gold medal in the biggest sporting event in the world,” Player said. “It’s not for me to criticize people. It’s their decision.”

MORE: Oosthuizen joins Scott, Singh in skipping Olympics