After major breakthrough, Stenson eyeing Olympic gold

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2016, 6:41 pm

TROON, Scotland – Toward the end of his news conference on Friday following a second-round 65 Henrik Stenson, as clever as they come, was stumped by an overly zealous question.

“If you had a choice of two of three: [winning] a claret jug, Olympic gold medal or Ryder Cup, which of those two would you take?” the media type asked.

Stumped, Stenson pondered the question for a moment before he allowed, “How long did you think about this question?

“If I say I'll take Olympic gold and The Open, I'm going to have 11 guys kicking me when I walk outside,” he laughed. “So I'll take the Ryder Cup then for my teammates, and then I'll take The Open as of now.”

On Sunday at Royal Troon the Swede answered at least a third of that question, winning The Open by three strokes in a duel for the ages against Phil Mickelson.

But if Stenson’s response to the left-field question rings of what has become a familiar indifference to Olympic golf, know that the 40-year-old may have simply been playing to the crowd – which would include his potential European Ryder Cup teammates and the Scottish masses.

In fact, the record shows that perhaps more than any other top player Stenson has displayed the most passion for this year’s Games, starting with his commitment to play.

Following a procession of high-profile withdrawals that include the world Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 – and has ballooned to 20 no-shows at last count – Stenson has taken a uniquely devoted approach to Olympic golf.

The Zika virus, which has been the most-often cited reason for the top players to not travel to Rio, is of no concern to Stenson, as only he could explain.

“For once it's a competitive advantage to be 40 and not looking to have any more kids,” he smiled.

While September’s Ryder Cup matches loom large for the likes of Stenson, the Scandinavian’s affinity for the Games goes beyond a passing interest in the opening ceremony and exploring the Olympic Village. He grew up counting medals and cheering for athletes who normally wouldn’t be household names even in Sweden. 

“I know, unlike others, he’s really keen on the Olympics,” Gareth Lord, Stenson’s caddie, said. “Especially at his age. He’s got this one [Olympics], if he’s got another that definitely would be it. But he’s definitely got this one. I know Rio is on his mind.”

He also realizes a byproduct of the exodus by the game’s top players from the Olympics will be dramatically improved chances to medal, and that was before he outdueled Phil Mickelson on Sunday.

In fairness to Stenson’s politically correct answer earlier last week, he’s been on multiple winning Ryder Cup teams and now that the void of his missing major has been filled the prospect of Olympic gold has moved to the front of his “to do” list.

“I think after a pretty long and successful career, it would be pretty cool to have an Olympic medal hanging next to some of the nice trophies I have at home,” he said.

Stenson will be the highest-ranked player in Rio and following his historic performance at Royal Troon a favorite to medal.

Imagine the impact on golf in Sweden that within five weeks Stenson became the first Scandinavian to win a major followed by a gold-medal performance in Brazil.

“It would be big outside the golfing community as well,” Stenson said. “It would be to the broader sports crowd and to the whole country. That would be massive.”

There’s also the issue of scheduling, which is widely considered an unspoken element of the rash of Olympic withdrawals. While the golf calendar has been condensed because of the Games, with two majors and Rio slated in a five-week window, consider Stenson’s extended take.

Not only will he play the Olympics, the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Ryder Cup – that’s 11 must-play events in eight weeks – but he’ll also play the European Tour’s season-ending series to complete his season.

Many players have professed their support for the Olympics and will travel to Rio. Others have offered lukewarm support and will not. But Stenson has backed up that praise with passion and action.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. 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.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm