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.


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''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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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.