Why, when golf, like other sports, was forced to quit the habit of having tobacco brands as sponsors, the last event to go up in smoke, the Benson & Hedges International at the Belfry in 2003, won by Paul Casey?
“Smoking is not permitted in enclosed public facilities during tournaments, this includes tented areas, hospitality facilities and grandstands, where separate designated smoking areas will be created nearby,” explained a European Tour official, adding, “However, in keeping with golf tournaments around the world, smoking is permitted on the golf course.”
And the media is far from blameless; both print and TV outlets routinely carry images of players such as 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn, his predecessors Darren Clarke and Sam Torrance sauntering up the fairway smoking a cigarette as evidence the stress they are under.
Or Miguel Ángel Jiménez puffing on a celebratory Havana cigar following a sporting victory and caddies, many with a nicotine addition smoking openly at work, surely this presents entirely the wrong image for a sport already with its issues and losing out to more vibrant, health-conscious and contemporary sports such cycling and triathlon.
Neither the International Golf Federation (IGF) or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had any protocols in place to prevent players and caddies smoking in Rio last year, revealing how short a distance the game has progressed culturally during its 112-year hiatus.
Golf, at least at the elite end of the game had better clean-up its act, or, with a rapid decline in participation already underway, risk the entire sport going up in smoke.