AKRON, Ohio -- Rory McIlroy was totally impressed by the Olympic Village in London, which he visited last week. "It's completely different than anything I've ever been at before, just the scale of it, the size of it," he said.
McIlroy got into the athletes' private domain this time because of connections: He accompanied his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, who is playing in the Summer Games for Denmark. Next time, McIlroy figures to get in because of his talent. Four years from now, golfers will be eligible for the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
"I think it's great for golf," said McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion from Northern Ireland who is preparing for a busy finish to this season, starting with the Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday. "Golf as a sport will be recognized in more countries and definitely, participation levels will go up."
In a way, pro golf has an Olympics feel much of the time: the majors all draw international fields, the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are intense international competitions and the World Golf Championships -- of which the Bridgestone is a part -- bring together elite fields from disparate world tours.
But even tour golfers know that the Olympics are unique, and worth aiming for, even if the format will be pretty much just like the one they see every week. Preliminary plans call for a 72-hole stroke play event involving 60 players -- maximum four per country -- based on the world rankings.
"I have been watching the Olympics and I'm really excited about golf being an Olympic sport," Phil Mickelson said during a conference call to reporters at Bethpage on Monday. "It also gives me great motivation to continue to work and practice in an effort to become an Olympic athlete."
He will be 46 by then, and a long shot to make the U.S. team. Still, the idea is something that pros are talking about.
"I've been watching the gymnastics and from what I've seen, I just think it's amazing," said Scott Piercy, who won the Canadian Open on Sunday. "Golf in the Olympics, I'm excited to see it. I don't know a lot about it quite yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes."
No one is looking forward to 2016 more enthusiastically than Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who is playing here this week. His father, Milkha, ran in three Olympics and lost the 400-meter bronze in 1960 in a photo finish (the first four runners all broke the world record). The elder Singh is a celebrity at home and his near miss is the subject of an upcoming movie there.
"I'm just hoping I can represent India in the Olympics in golf," the son said. "If that happens, I think that will be the best thing, and a gift to my father."