McIlroy's Olympic WD isn't end of golf in Games

By Ryan LavnerJune 22, 2016, 6:42 pm

Golf’s return to the Olympics was dealt a serious blow Wednesday when Rory McIlroy withdrew himself from consideration.

McIlroy reportedly changed his mind in the past week, and the reason for his withdrawal – uncertainty over the Zika virus – will pave the way for other top-ranked players to drop out, as well. World No. 1 Jason Day, two-time major winner Jordan Spieth, the hugely popular Rickie Fowler and Masters champion Danny Willett are among those who have already publicly expressed concerns about traveling to Rio de Janeiro. McIlroy’s about-face will only make their decision easier.

Would several key absences diminish the Games? Absolutely. It certainly wasn’t what officials had in mind when golf was voted (63-27) into the Olympic program in 2009.

But circumstances change, and the past few years have been filled with discontent from players and fans. Among the many criticisms: The format is unimaginative (72-hole stroke play) and does not include a team component. The 60-player field is watered down by a qualification process that limits a country to four representatives if they’re ranked inside the top 15. (Even Tiger Woods said Wednesday that the Olympics deserves a “top-heavy field.”)  The golf course has been a never-ending headache for Gil Hanse and his team. The PGA Tour schedule this season is too condensed, with three majors, a World Golf Championships event, the Olympics, FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup in a 17-week span. Zika arrived earlier this year, with medical experts still unclear about the mosquito-borne virus’ short- and long-term effects. And on Friday, with the Games less than 50 days away, Rio’s governor declared a state of financial emergency.

If more big names drop out, then golf’s participation issue should be blamed on the Zika virus and the host city, not that the sport is ill-suited for the Olympics.

Think of it this way: If the Games were held in Los Angeles, or London, or Tokyo, would so many players drop out, even in a hectic year? Probably not.

There is precedent to consider about this imperfect introduction.

In 1988, tennis returned as a medal sport after a 64-year absence, and the reaction was mixed, even underwhelming. Eight of the top 10 players in the world opted not to play, citing a variety of reasons, from minor injuries to scheduling conflicts to family commitments.

Back then, players trotted out the same excuses we hear now – that capturing a gold medal was never their goal, that their inclusion was disrespectful to other athletes who train four years for the event, that their schedule was already too crowded, that their sport shouldn’t be included because they’re judged by the number of majors won, not medals.

After the 1988 Games, however, perception about tennis’ inclusion began to change; those who had skipped now wanted an opportunity to hang a medal around their neck. Though players still don’t view Olympic gold the same as the Wimbledon trophy, most of the sport’s biggest stars compete, the matches are intense and, eventually, a deserving winner is crowned.

The belief here is that once players arrive in Rio, they’ll be enthralled by the pageantry of the Olympics. They’ll mingle with the best athletes from all around the world and cherish representing their country at the biggest spectacle in sports.

The problem, of course, is convincing them to actually make the trip.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.