Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Rio Olympics

By Rex HoggardDecember 16, 2016, 8:00 pm

(Editor's note: GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 newsmakers of 2016. Take a look at why each item made our list, along with a collection of their top stories from the year. Click here for the full list and release dates.)

The headlines came with staccato regularity, each news cycle more foreboding as golf’s return to the Olympics neared.

April 20 – “Adam Scott will not compete in the Olympics”

June 9 – “Rio isn't ready for its Olympic closeup”

June 28 – “Jason Day to miss Rio Olympics over Zika virus scare”

July 11 – “Jordan Spieth will not participate in Rio Olympics”

Aug. 4 – “Rio Olympic Golf Problems 2016: Capybaras, Crocodiles, Sloths All Over The Course”

You get the idea. Still, despite some of the world’s best male players decining to make the trip to Rio for golf’s first cameo in the Games since 1904, not a single golfer was harmed by a capybara, crocodile or the Zika virus during the Olympics. 

Golf’s return to the Olympic program, a move heralded by proponents as the most promising grow-the-game initiative since the feathery golf ball was retired, faced a litany of issues from the outset.

The Games' dates forced an overhaul of the 2016 PGA Tour schedule, with the PGA Championship moved to late July, just two weeks after The Open. Zika and security concerns dominated the conversation and many of the game’s top players blinked, including Spieth, Day, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.

 “I don’t think it was as difficult a decision for me as it was for Jordan,” McIlroy said in July at The Open. “I don’t feel like I’ve let the game down at all. I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win major championships. I get that I have a responsibility to the game. But at the same time I got into golf to win. I didn’t get into golf to get other people into the game.”

In short, the greatest spectacle in sports was met with an indifferent shrug from golf, or at least the male portion of the marquee (there wasn’t a single high-profile female player who didn’t make the trip to Rio).

That narrative, however, began to evolve from the moment players arrived in the Olympic Village. Rickie Fowler, who along with Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar represented the U.S. at the Games, hung with Michael Phelps and the U.S. swimming team and enthusiastically embraced the Olympic experience.

Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose dueled down the stretch in the final round, with the Englishman making birdie at two of his final four holes to claim the gold medal. Stenson took silver and Kuchar became arguably the happiest third-place finisher in the history of golf.

The women’s competition was even more compelling with South Korea’s Inbee Park taking gold and world No. 1 Lydia Ko winning the silver medal.

In short, golf’s return to the Olympics was everything the headlines said it wouldn’t be; and, despite concerns over the future of Rio’s Olympic Golf Course, players have already began looking to 2020 when the Games will be held in Tokyo where they hope to make an entirely different set of headlines.


Big Names WD From Olympics Over Zika, Health Concerns, Tour Status


Olympics a Big Success

Rose wins gold over Stenson (silver), Kuchar (bronze)

Park laps field for gold medal at Rio Olympics

Golf proves it belongs

Finchem expects golf to stay


The Aftermath of Golf's Return to Olympics

Feherty: Why Olympics successful

Final thoughts on Olympics

Olympics impact on golf

That's a wrap: Takeaways from Rio

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.