Golf, wrestling in Olympic cage match

By Jason SobelFebruary 13, 2013, 11:17 pm

It was announced by the International Olympic Committee this week that wrestling has been recommended to be dropped from the Olympic Games following 2016. The decision has a lot of people in tight unitards threatening to leap off the top turnbuckle and throw a flying elbow at the sport of golf.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it, Hulkamaniacs. Wrestling doesn’t always involve guys slamming steel chairs into each other’s backs while 13-year-olds with a distorted view of reality shriek in delight. It’s a real sport which has been included in the Olympics since the days Zeus was still chucking thunderbolts at his competition.

I’m not here to argue that point. Mostly because I don’t want you to put me in a figure-four leglock.

My problem is that much like the muscle-bound gym rat who loses his girlfriend to the classy gentleman with a sublime short game, you’re taking your anger out on the wrong party.

Dudes, it’s not our fault the IOC likes us better than you.

A few years ago, some of the biggest names in golf made their pitch as to why the sport should be added to the current lineup and the proposal was accepted, beginning with the 2016 Games. That proposal included video presentations, written documentation and first-person anecdotes. At no point did it ever include the words: “We’re cooler than wrestling, so just get rid of those guys.”

And yet, in the aftermath of the IOC’s announcement this week, the debate has somehow become You against Us. Just like The Rock (one of your guys) growled in the 2010 film “Faster,” golf’s attitude toward wrestling is, “Brother, I ain’t got no beef with you.”

The feeling isn’t mutual. Ronda Rousey, who in 2008 became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in judo, said of the decision, “If you don't break a sweat, it's not a sport; it’s a skill. There's certainly skill in golf, but wrestling is one of the most basic sports. It's one of the root sports in the Olympics and I think they're destroying part of their history by getting rid of it.'

Help me, Ronda. I don’t want to get into the whole, “Is golf a ‘real’ sport?” argument, but I’ve been known to break a sweat putting together an Ikea bookcase – and that sure as hell shouldn’t be an Olympic event (on second thought …).

Instead of golf, why don’t you go after rhythmic gymnastics or equestrian dressage? I mean, even walking is in the Olympics. How is that more of a sport than golf? At least we’re doing something useful while we walk.

The biggest complaint from the pro-wrestling crowd – which is completely different from the pro wrestling crowd – is that anyone can grapple with another human, but only a select few have the means to play golf. While I can’t argue with the first part of that point, I’ve always contended that golf is one of the world’s most diverse sports, with world-class players coming from all corners of the globe and various backgrounds.

Lee Trevino worked in cotton fields at age 5 and later shined shoes to earn money to play the game. Chi Chi Rodriguez’s first golf club was actually a branch from a guava tree. Vijay Singh couldn’t afford golf balls, so he used coconuts instead. All three are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Still, golf carries the stigma of being an elitist sport, one of the main reasons why wrestlers believe they’re more entitled to a place in the Olympics.

But it’s not just folks in singlets who are going for the takedown. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports is one of the best in the sportswriting biz, and this week he took offense to golf being next on the tee.

“Golf is an old, simple pursuit itself, invented by bored Scottish sheepherders,” Wetzel wrote. “It's done fine, however, without the Olympics. And while the Games should aim to stay current with the times, golf isn't half-pipe snowboarding, a sport the next generation of kids is suddenly into. Golf is actually losing players in many countries.”

So let me get this straight: Because our game is losing players in many countries, it shouldn’t be considered for inclusion in the Olympics? Um, isn’t that the very reason why it should? Correctly or incorrectly, those who argued for the sport to be added contend that this will lead to a global boon that it desperately needs.

And unless I’m missing something here, wrestling isn’t exactly flourishing at the youth levels. If popularity with kids was the main reason for inclusion, then the IOC should add sleeping, texting and Angry Birds to the next Olympics, too.

Look, as a sport that hasn’t been included in the Summer Games since 1904, we feel for the wrestling community that’s gotten pinned on a surprising reversal. But don’t blame us for your misfortune. This is a fight that you need to take up with the IOC, not golf.

Besides, you don’t want a piece of us. You guys may not get to use steel chairs, but we come armed with plenty of clubs.

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.