Aussie Fraser leads in return of Olympic golf

By Doug FergusonAugust 11, 2016, 9:44 pm

RIO DE JANEIRO - On a day of firsts for Olympic golf, Marcus Fraser of Australia had the one that mattered - the first-round lead.

Fraser ran off four straight birdies before the wind arrived and kept right on going until he had an 8-under 63, giving him a three-shot lead over British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Graham DeLaet of Canada.

Better yet? He set an Olympic record Thursday, though that was hardly a surprise considering golf had not been part of the Olympics since 1904.

''That's pretty cool,'' Fraser said. ''So hopefully, that lasts all week.''

There was plenty for golf to celebrate in its return to the Olympics, from the opening tee shot by Adilson da Silva of Brazil to the first hole-in-one by Justin Rose, who wasn't even sure his 7-iron from 189 yards on the fourth hole had gone in the cup until he heard the crowd.

And yes, it was quite the crowd.

No one was quite sure what to expect from the gallery on the first day, in a country with very little golf heritage and with no medals awarded until Sunday. Padraig Harrington was surprised to see more than 6,000 spread out across Olympic Golf Course, holding flags along the fairway ropes and sending cheers from all corners.

It all started with da Silva, the only Brazilian in the 60-man field, so nervous over that opening shot that ''my head was everywhere,'' he said. His drive went straight down the middle, and golf was on its way.


Olympic golf coverage: Articles, photos and videos


''The end of a long journey,'' said Peter Dawson, president of the International Golf Federation. ''Or the beginning of a new one.''

DeLaet, who has struggled with the yips in his short game so badly that he took six weeks off this summer, was in the first group to honor George Lyon, the Canadian who last won a gold medal in golf at the St. Louis Games. He didn't need much of a short game by hitting 14 out of 18 greens. And he knows his history.

''It's been awhile since we've won a gold,'' DeLaet cracked when he finished.

Stenson was in the last group and faced the strongest wind, but the Swede who set a major championship scoring record at Royal Troon dropped only one shot. His biggest struggle was with fans taking photos with their mobile phones.

''It was a patience test out there,'' Stenson said. ''I think we had to back off quite a lot of shots. There were more mobile phones and cameras than normal, I guess because it's a different crowd out there than we normally have.''

The biggest surprise came from the Americans.

Rickie Fowler said earlier in the week that with four Americans in the field - no other country has more than two - they could sweep the podium. After one round, Matt Kuchar at 69 was the only American to break par.

Fowler had a 30-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, and four putts later he walked off with a double bogey. It didn't get much better from there. Fowler shot a 75, beating only two players - Rodolfo Cazaubon of Mexico and Lin Wen-Tang of Taiwan.

Bubba Watson couldn't buy a putt and started his back nine with a tee shot into a native area with sand thick enough to host beach volleyball. That led to a double bogey and he wound up at 73. Patrick Reed made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch after making the turn and shot 72.

''Horrendous,'' Reed said.

More than half of the field was at par or better. Adding to the Olympic spirit is that the 10 players who shot 68 or better came from nine countries.

The vibe on the first tee was strong, not nearly the level of a Ryder Cup, but different from other tournaments with players dressed in team colors and being introduced by country.

''The nerves don't get me very many places. Here it was a little different,'' Kuchar said. ''I think I was the first American to tee off today. To hear my name announced as an Olympian and to go tee off, there were a few more butterflies than I anticipated.''

Harrington, one of four players chosen to present golf's case to the International Olympic Committee when it was voted back into the Games in 2009, said he was more nervous on the opening tee than when he played his first major. And then he opened with a bogey.

He rallied for a 69, but on this day, the score was only part of what mattered.

''I said it to the guys walking off, 'Now we are Olympians,' and nobody can take that away from us,'' he said. ''When you think about it, most weeks you have 156 guys playing, 155 losers. This week, you have 60 guys playing, and we are all winners.''

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.