Heavy medal: Olympic participation decision not easy

By Rex HoggardMay 4, 2016, 9:22 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Adam Scott said it was “an extremely busy playing schedule.” Louis Oosthuizen cited family and scheduling issues, and Vijay Singh referenced concerns over the Zika virus.

All told, four players who were currently qualified for the Olympics have taken a pass for a number of different reasons, ranging from an unrealistically crowded schedule leading into the Games to logistic and health concerns.

Scott, this year’s FedEx Cup frontrunner, is the most high-profile player to decline a trip to Rio in August, and to be fair the Australian has said all along that the Games have never been a priority for him.

On Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship, it quickly became evident that it was not a choice Scott came by lightly or without a good amount of thought.

“The tough part was to choose not to represent Australia,” he said. “But I feel like I do that every week. I've lived my life representing Australia and I feel I've tried to do the best job I can at that.”

Scott acknowledged that some will second-guess his choice, question whether his decision not to play is based on personal gain (playing the Tour) and not the potential impact the Games could have on the growth of golf globally.

That Scott has been vilified in some circles for skipping the Olympics is not surprising; that he acknowledged that push-back, and even accepted much of that criticism, is a testament to how hard the choice was.

“Of course not everyone will understand my decision or like it, but not everyone's in my position where I feel that's something I'm willing to sacrifice for some family time,” he said. “As well as the criticism, I think there was some very fair constructive comments about the whole thing, and some of my point of view and feelings were explained well, too.”

Oosthuizen and Singh likely wrestled with similar internal debates before removing their names from Olympic consideration. The reality is even players who are committed to playing this year’s Games are doing so for a litany of different reasons.

Paul Casey, who is currently just outside of qualifying to represent England, said it’s always been his dream to don the “track suit” worn by his country’s athletes in the Parade of Nations; while Rickie Fowler, who is qualified, is looking forward to spending time around the swimmers, archers and runners representing the United States.

“Just being able to be a part of the Olympics, share the whole experience with other U.S. athletes and to be able to be down there and see the Village, go to other events and just really kind of take in the whole Olympic experience,” Fowler said.

Rory McIlroy, however, had the most detailed and telling take on his commitment to the Games.

McIlroy’s longtime friend Paul McGinley will captain the Irish golf team in Rio and McIlroy said he didn’t want to let him down by not playing, but it was golf’s potential future in the Games that eventually pushed the world No. 3 over the Olympic hill.

“It’s in Rio this year and Tokyo in 2020. I’m not sure if we’re going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after that depending on what happens,” McIlroy said.

What McIlroy is referring to is golf’s longevity as an Olympic sport.

When the International Olympic Committee approved golf’s return to the Games for the first time since 1904 it was for just two Olympiads, this year in Rio and in 2020 in Japan, but the rub is the IOC will decide if golf remains an Olympic sport beyond 2020 before the Tokyo Games are held.

In short, golf may get only one chance to make a lasting impression on the IOC, so – for McIlroy – that means taking advantage of the opportunity now.

Besides, the Northern Irishman figures there’s no way to judge the importance of a gold medal to future legacies.

“I don’t know how that will stack up against the other things that I’ve done in my career now, but maybe I might look back in 20 years time and a gold medal might be one of my crowning achievements in the game, you never know,” McIlroy said.

Olympic golf qualifies as uncharted waters for both players and fans, which at least partially explains the decisions made by some to skip the Games. While the motivations for traditional Olympic athletes are universally simple – win medals – for golfers, from Scott to McIlroy, it turns out the priorities are much more nuanced.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.