"Countdown to Rio" to Premiere Sunday, July 31 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 28, 2016, 7:35 pm

 Countdown to Rio Follows Seven-Year Journey of Golf’s Return to the Olympics from: Golf Being Voted Back in as Olympic Sport in 2009; Initial Course Architect Pitches; & Building of the Course Venue

“The gold medal is going to be the biggest prize in golf” – Jack Nicklaus

“As you look out to 2020, 2024 and 2028… And let’s just assume golf is in there. This Rio design job is going to carry that torch.” – Greg Norman

“The Olympic Games, that’s the ultimate” – Gary Player

Special Episode of Feherty with Olympic Athlete, Basketball Coach Doug Collins to Premiere Monday, August 1

Golf Channel Digital Features Exclusive Tour of Olympic Course Venue Front & Back Nines with Architect Gil Hanse & Frank Nobilo’s Tee-to-Green Segments Featuring Hole-by-Hole Overview of the Course

After the most recent major champions in the 2016 professional golf season are crowned this Sunday at the PGA Championship and RICOH Women’s British Open, the golf industry will turn its attention to the sport’s return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years, with Golf Channel providing coverage from the first tee shot to the final putt of both the men’s and women’s competitions. Golf Channel will kick off its more than 300 total hours of Olympic-themed programming with Countdown to Rio, premiering this Sunday, July 31 at 9 p.m. ET, immediately following Golf Central Live From the PGA Championship.

Seven years in the making, filming for Countdown to Rio dates back to when the IOC officially voted golf back in as an Olympic sport in October 2009, and closely follows the events that unfolded in the subsequent years, including:

October 2009 – Vote Returns Golf as an Olympic Sport for the 2016 Rio Olympics

Countdown to Rio chronicles the steps taken leading up to golf’s return to the Olympics, including the 18-month process of the International Golf Federation (IGF) making presentations to the IOC. Much of the focus centers around the potential for golf in the Olympics to act as a major catalyst in development of the game around the world.

January 2012 – Legends, Golf Architects Pitch to Design Olympic Golf Venue

With Golf Channel’s exclusive, inside access as the only cameras present in the room, Countdown to Rio reveals never previously seen footage of the architect’s presentations from the eight finalists who pitched to design the Olympic golf venue in Rio. The eight finalist groups feature some of the game’s biggest legends and golf architects, among them: Jack Nicklaus/Annika Sorenstam, Greg Norman/Lorena Ochoa, Gary Player, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Doak, and Gil Hanse/Amy Alcott. Cameras capture the moment in which Gil Hanse learns his team had been chosen to construct the course.

“You sort of start to handicap [your chances] from a design standpoint. ‘Could we hold our own with these eight groups?’ And I felt like we could. Then you start to think politically. ‘Are we as connected? Do we have as big of a presence?’ No. So then it becomes, ‘We really need to work our butts off to design something good.’” – Gil Hanse

“The gold medal is going to be the biggest prize in golf” – Jack Nicklaus

“As you look out to 2020, 2024 and 2028… And let’s just assume golf is in there. This Rio design job is going to carry that torch.” – Greg Norman

“The Olympic Games, that’s the ultimate” – Gary Player 

Spring 2012 – Following Hanse and His Initial Work in Rio

Countdown to Rio follows Gil Hanse in the subsequent months after he was initially awarded the job to construct the Olympic Golf Course. Cameras follow Hanse from the early days of the construction process, where bulldozers are used to clear the land and route the holes, and ultimately begin to shape the land into a golf course setup suited for competition.

September 2013 – “Check-in” Survey Evaluating Progress of Olympic Golf Venue

Representatives from the IGF and Rio Organizing Committee meet with Hanse to survey the progress, and areas still needed to address on the course project.

March 2016 – Olympic Test Event Staged at Newly Designed Golf Venue

In an effort to gauge the readiness of the newly constructed course setup for Olympic competition, a dedicated test event was held earlier this year to ensure the playability of the venue. Cameras were on-site to chronicle the competition and capture the reactions from those in the field after having played the new layout.

Hanse Offers Exclusive Tour of the Olympic Golf Course for Golf Channel Digital

Following the completion of the golf course design process, Gil Hanse welcomed Golf Channel cameras for an exclusive tour of the golf course. Hanse shares insight on the course’s front and back nines, and explains what went into constructing an ideal venue fit for a global Olympic test for both the men’s and women’s competitions. Golf Channel Digital features the respective front and back nine tours:

Frank Nobilo’s Tee-to-Greens Prepare Viewers for New Venue

Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo spent time in Rio filming his signature Tee-to-Greens segments on the Olympic Golf Course. Nobilo details which holes will likely prove pivotal as players compete for their chance to win an Olympic medal. Golf Channel Digital highlights Nobilo’s Tee-to-Greens segments:

Olympic Athlete, Basketball Coach Doug Collins Joins Feherty for a Special Episode Premiering Monday, August 1

Next Monday, August 1, former Olympic athlete (1972 Munich Summer Games) and basketball coach Doug Collins will join David Feherty at 9 p.m. ET on the latest episode of Feherty. Among other topics, Collins recounts having been on the losing end of the controversial 1972 gold medal game between the United States and the Soviet Union, and what it was like to have coached Michael Jordan.

NBC SPORTS’ GOLF OLYMPIC PROGRAMMING PLANS

Men’s Olympic Golf Broadcast Team (August 11-14)

Johnny Miller, World Golf Hall-of-Famer and NBC analyst of more than 25 years will lead the network’s live tournament coverage of the men’s competition, rotating lead analyst roles with six-time major champion and Hall-of-Famer Nick Faldo in the 18th tower. David Feherty, Emmy-nominated sports personality and longtime golf broadcaster, will split time as a tower analyst and on-course reporter, and Peter Jacobsen will serve as a second tower analyst. Roger Maltbie and Curt Byrum will offer insight from inside the ropes as on-course reporters along with Feherty. Veteran NBC Olympic personalities Terry Gannon and Steve Sands will join Miller and Faldo in the broadcast booth, rotating play-by-play duties. Todd Lewis will serve as a reporter and conduct player interviews.

Women’s Olympics Golf Broadcast Team (August 17-20)

Gannon and Sands also will handle play-by-play during the women’s competition, where they’ll be joined by two additional Hall-of-Fame personalities in 10-time major champion and winner of 72 tournaments on the LPGA Tour, Annika Sorenstam, who will rotate lead analyst duties with Karen Stupples. Byrum also will join the 18th tower as an analyst, while Tom Abbott will be positioned as a tower analyst, and Jerry Foltz and Kay Cockerill will work as on-course reporters on the grounds. Lewis will conduct player interviews.

Live From the Olympics News Coverage Team

Golf Channel will provide wraparound news coverage immediately prior to and following live coverage of the competition via its Golf Central Live From the Olympics programming. Rich Lerner will host coverage from Rio’s Olympic golf course and will be joined by Faldo (men’s competition) and Stupples (women’s competition), as well as Golf Channel’s roster of analysts taking part in the network’s live coverage of the Olympics. Golf Channel insider Rex Hoggard and Lewis also will provide daily reports and offer interviews with players on-site.

Golf Makes Historic Return to the Olympics

Golf’s return to the Olympic Games for the first time in 112 years represents a modern-day first as Golf Channel joins NBC Sports’ unmatched Olympic heritage to become the first single-sport cable network to provide live coverage of its sport’s Olympic competition. Golf Channel will feature more than 130 live hours of Olympics programming, and nearly 300 hours in total. Similar to NBC Sports’ all-encompassing coverage of marquee events like the Ryder Cup, NBC Olympics’ live coverage of the men’s and women’s competitions in Rio will begin with the opening tee shot and continue until the medals are awarded.

The International Olympic Committee in 2009 voted to bring golf back to the Olympics for the 2016 and 2020 games, after the sport had been absent in the Olympic program since the men’s competition in 1904 and women’s in 1900. Athletes will compete on the newly constructed Olympic Golf Course, which was designed by Gil Hanse and Amy Alcott in Reserva Marapendi, located in Rio de Janeiro’s neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca. Additionally, Olympic gold medalists will receive exemptions into all of their respective major championships, including: The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2017 for the men, and the Evian Championship (in 2016) and ANA Inspiration, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, U.S. Women’s Open, and Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2017 for the women.

NBC will feature live look-ins, highlights and updates on the golf competition throughout the Games. All Olympic competition, including golf, will be live streamed on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app, (Powered by Playmaker Media), both of which require authentication.

The Olympic golf competition will consist of 60 players on both the men’s and women’s side, competing in a 72-hole stroke play competition based on world golf rankings. The top-15 players in the official world golf rankings are eligible, with a maximum of four players allowed from a given nation. Outside of the top-15, each nation is allowed a maximum of two players (based on world ranking). If a country has already qualified two or more players within the top-15, additional athletes are not eligible.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x