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Future Olympic venues provide welcome stability

By Rex HoggardSeptember 13, 2017, 7:40 pm

It’s not as though it was any big surprise. This plan had been in the making for some time, but following the stress and strain caused by golf’s return to the Olympics last year there is something to be said for turnkey venues.

Although the Olympic Golf Course has emerged as a rare beacon of hope from last year’s Rio Games, for those who endured years of delays and constructions concerns it was not an ideal situation.

The anxiety caused by having to start from scratch in Rio for golf’s return to the Games was just part of bigger-picture concerns that led to many of the game’s top players passing on a trip to the ’16 Olympics, but on Wednesday the executive board of the International Olympic Committee made sure that’s not an issue for the foreseeable future.

The executive board officially announced that Paris will host the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles will get the ’28 Olympics.

Both cities originally bid on the ’24 Games, but were considered such leading candidates they agreed to alter hosting duties in ’24 and ’28. It was a win-win for the IOC and for golf.

While golf needs to officially be approved past the 2020 Games, which should happen this week, the venue for the ’24 Games would be Le Golf National, the venue for next year’s Ryder Cup and a regular stop on the European Tour, and Riviera Country Club, the annual site of the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open since 1929, in 2028.

There will be no scrambling to create something from nothing, like Rio architect Gil Hanse and Co. did in Rio. No worries over whether the game’s best will find a suitable test or how the competition will show to the world – just fine-tuning.

 It’s a comfort that Antony Scanlon, the executive director of the International Golf Federation, couldn’t hide during a recent interview.

“A good test event next year,” joked Scanlon, referring to Le Golf National and the ’17 Ryder Cup. “Every year after that with the French Open we will try to improve on it.”

If golf is approved for the ’24 Games and beyond, which officials are confident will happen, Riviera is considered one of the game’s best courses and annually draws one of the Tour’s best fields.

This may seem like a small portion of the Olympic puzzle for Scanlon, but given how trying the ’16 and ’20 Games have been logistically it’s a genuine reason for organizers to celebrate.

Although the Rio course was completed on time for last year’s Olympics, and by all accounts proved to be a successful venue despite countless construction delays, protests and legal wrangling, it was a distraction that golf would have gladly done without.

Even the 2020 venue in Tokyo hasn’t exactly been a home run. Following weeks of criticism for not allowing females members, Kasumigaseki Country Club, the venue for the ’20 Games, voted in March to reverse its policy and allow women to join the club.

This change of heart came after the IOC made it clear it would have no trouble finding another venue if the policy remained in place.

The Paris and Los Angeles venues will have no such issues. Both are established clubs with close ties to the game’s leading organizations, like the PGA and European tours.

The courses also have a proven track record, with Riviera regularly voted as one of the Tour’s best venues by players and Le Golf National among the Continent’s most popular stops.

While Rio was a unique success story, for vastly different reasons, consider the game’s best going head-to-head on a course in Versailles just minutes outside of Paris’ city center, or at Riviera, which is wedged between San Vicente Road and Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood (In a related note to 2028 athletes: traffic could be an issue).

It’s always the play on the field that makes a competition special, but having fields with established reputations and proven logistics can only enhance an event that exceeded many expectations in ’16.

For all the issues faced by organizers last year in Rio, there were advantages to golf returning to the Games in South America, the primary benefit being able to introduce a country with very little golf history to the game on such an important stage.

But all things considered, Scanlon will gladly embrace a little less uncertainty for future competitions.

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Watch: Birds attack JT during post-round interview

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 17, 2018, 11:45 pm

Justin Thomas may have carded five birdies and an eagle on Saturday at the Genesis Open, but it was the two birds he encountered after his round that made for the biggest highlight.

Fresh off a third-round 67 that put him in the mix at Riviera Country Club through 54 holes, Thomas' post-round interview was interrupted by a couple of birds. Luckily, JT and CBS' Amanda Balionis were able to escape unscathed and with smiles on their faces.

Thomas will need to do a little worse at dodging birdies in the final round if he wants to catch the leaders on Sunday.

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Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

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Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.

Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

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J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

"I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

"It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

"It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."