McIlroy, Fowler both say they'd prefer a major over an Olympic gold

Devil Ball Golf

With golf returning to the Olympic program in August after a 112-year absence, 60 men and 60 women will have what might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a gold medal in their sport. 

However, as rare as this chance is and may continue to be after the '16 Games, more and more male players are saying they'd still prefer to have one of their four majors.

Count Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler among those who would rather win the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open or PGA Championship than the 72-hole stroke-play contest in Rio de Janeiro.

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"I think a major championship is the pinnacle of our sport," McIlroy said ahead of this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. 

"I think I'll be remembered for my major championships. So all I've dreamed of from a little kid is winning majors. I never dreamed of competing in the Olympics or winning an Olympic medal," McIlroy added."So in my mind, a major will always be more important."

Fowler was less hesitant and right to the point.

"I'll take a major," Fowler said, according to the Scotsman.

However, Jordan Spieth isn't quite willing to distinguish between the two yet. The 22-year-old two-time 2015 major winner puts them on equal footing -- with a caveat.

"The way I look at it right now, I look at them equal," he said. 

Then he added, "It's very early to tell how they will end up comparing to major championships in the future. But if I had not won a major, I would probably still say a major."

Spieth seemed to hit at the main reason why so many players are having trouble finding value in the Olympic gold. Golf has its four big tournaments on the men's side (five on the women's side). It doesn't need another, and, even if it did, The Players and a handful of other tournaments could fit that bill. Beyond that, several generations of players have been conditioned that majors are the ones that matter most without even so much as the possibility that golf could appear on the big Olympic stage.

Golf's future in the Olympic program is uncertain. The sport will be in the Tokyo games in 2020, but its place beyond that will be voted upon in 2017. If the 2016 Olympic tournament doesn't go well or the participants show a lack of interest in the event, that could well be a signal to the International Olympic Committee that golf just isn't a good fit.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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